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Managing Police Complaints with Case Management Software

One robust tool can help police forces track and manage complaints, as well as study data and take preventive action

Posted by Ann Snook on August 11th, 2020

The deaths of George Floyd and other innocent people have sparked a worldwide movement in the past few years, scrutinizing police forces unlike any other time in history. Before killing Floyd, Derek Chauvin had received at least 17 misconduct complaints against him during his two decades with the Minneapolis Police Department.

This is just one of many tragedies that could have been avoided with a better complaints management process. The public is calling for stronger accountability and stricter treatment of officers who abuse their power.

Investigations of police complaints should be conducted with the best tools available. That’s where case management software comes in.


Internal complaints can be an employment lawsuit landmine.

Every complaint must be addressed promptly, consistently and effectively to ensure the employee is treated fairly and misconduct is dealt with quickly. The AIRR Model is a comprehensive set of steps for dealing with employee complaints. Learn how to apply this model to your complaints management process with our free checklist.

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Ensure Accountability


Accountability is one of the most important considerations for complainants, especially for reports of police misconduct. To increase accountability in your complaints management system, build it into the process.

Case management software can help you achieve accountability in a number of ways. First, look for a system that flags conflicts of interest. For example, you can tag employees’ relatives, friends and partners in their file, so that no one with a personal relationship to the subject will investigate a complaint against them.

In addition, choose a system that lets you automatically escalate certain complaint types to your oversight agency. For instance, if the complainant tags their complaint as a serious crime such as sexual assault or fraud on your reporting tool, the system will automatically assign the file to an external investigator.


Improve the Submission Process


In order for the public to report potential issues to your organization, they need to know how and where to do it. If the process is too long, difficult or confusing, they won’t submit complaints, which could allow situations to escalate.

First, make submitting complaints easier by offering multiple reporting avenues. These could include a webform, dedicated phone line and in-person complaints box. Make each one easy to find and use, as well as multilingual as appropriate for your location.

Not every complainant will want to identify themselves. While it can make gathering information more difficult, police forces should enable anonymous reporting. This widens the pool of people who will feel comfortable filing a complaint, which helps you uncover more issues before they become major problems. Allowing the public to submit anonymous complaints shows that you are committed to improving your organization, while also valuing their privacy.

Look for case management software that automatically creates a case file when a complaint is submitted. This speeds up response time and ensures no complaints fall through the cracks.


RELATED: What to Look for in a Complaint Management System


Keep Complainants Up to Date


After they submit a report, complainants usually want to know the status of the investigation and how it’s resolved. Keeping them in the loop not only ensures investigations stay on track, but also shows that you care about their concerns.

However, updating complainants every time an investigation moves to a new stage takes a lot of time and effort. Case management software with reminders and automatic escalations can make the process easier. The system will remind the investigator to contact the complainant whenever the case is updated, such as when it moves from “received” to “in progress.”

Case management software can also help you keep track of correspondence. Look for a system with a case history timeline. This shows all actions taken on a file, including communication, so you won’t double up or forget to reach out to someone.


Analyze Complaint Trends


Simply reacting to complaints is not enough. To make your police force the best it can be, you need to manage risk.

Analyze the nature of the complaints you receive to uncover trends. Is one officer or employee the subject of multiple complaints? Have you received many complaints about the same type of behavior or incident? Spotting patterns can help you direct your resources to improve training programs, update policies and take other preventive actions to reduce repeat incidents.

This type of data analysis can take hours, time that could be better spent investigating and resolving complaints. Choose a case management system that can create reports for you. Plug in the categories you want to examine (e.g. location, complaint type, etc.) and the software pulls data into a chart or graph for quick and easy trend analysis.


RELATED: How to Handle Harassment Complaints in 2020


Uncover Inefficiencies


When someone submits a complaint, you need to address it as quickly as possible. Who knows how long an issue has been going on before they reported it, or how fast it could escalate?

To ensure efficiency, police forces need to track trends in response times. Are there steps that often take longer than necessary? Do investigations hit a standstill when they are with either your oversight agency or the department?

Case management software with trend analysis makes it easy to spot inefficiencies. It can create trend reports in seconds, indicating where you need to take corrective actions that will help you meet deadlines.


Download our free best practices for resolving complaints cheat sheet to learn how to boost your organization’s image and cut the cost of managing police complaints in half.


Addressing complaints quickly and resolving them in a timely manner helps to assure the public and your community that your force takes misconduct seriously. Efficient complaint management followed by decisive action and communication engenders trust and cooperation, improving public perception and relationships with the communities you serve.

Ann Snook
Ann Snook

Marketing Writer

Ann is a marketing writer at i-Sight Software. She writes about issues related to investigations of fraud, employee misconduct, corporate security, Title IX, ethics & compliance and more.

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