Frequently-Asked Questions

Members of the public deserve to be treated professionally by Pittsburgh’s police officers. If you know of a situation that hurts the relationship between citizens and the police, please tell us about it. It didn’t have to happen to you. If you don’t tell us within six months, the case cannot be investigated or reviewed by the Board. Likewise, if you tell us about something that did not involve Pittsburgh Police, the case is out of our jurisdiction, and cannot be investigated or reviewed by the Board.

How Do I Make A Complaint?

You may call, write, fax or drop in to the office and tell us what happened. We will log your initial contact as a pending complaint. A pending complaint must be filed within 6 months of the incident causing the complaint and is kept on file until you convert it to a Citizen Complaint (also within the 6 month period) by describing the situation under oath.

What is a Citizen Complaint?

A Citizen Complaint is a formal allegation of misconduct against a member or members of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police by a citizen. The complaint statement is given voluntarily and under oath, and describes an encounter or situation involving Pittsburgh Police that offended a citizen or damages the relationship between citizens and the police. The Board has authority to investigate and hold public hearings on Citizen Complaints.

How Do Escalate my Pending Complaint to a Citizen Complaint?

If you want us to investigate your concern, within six months of the incident we need you to file a Citizen Complaint—a sworn statement from you telling us what happened. As a convenience, notary services are available at the CPRB office. We will provide you with a Citizen Complaint form to assist you with organizing the information about your complaint. It is not necessary to use that form. Any notarized, written statement that contains a description of the incident, contains your name, address and a secondary means of contacting you is acceptable. That’s it. We’ll take it from there, although we we need and expect your cooperation through the investigation.

What Happens after I file a Citizen Complaint?

An Investigator from the CPRB is assigned to the case. A summary of the case is presented to the Board and the Board determines if the case should be dismissed or further investigation should occur. If the Board orders a Preliminary Inquiry, the Investigator will offer mediation to the complainant and the subject officer, interview witnesses, gather evidence and return to the Board. At this stage, the focus is on the basic facts of the complaint and whether or not the initial evidence supports the allegation of misconduct.

What Happens after a Preliminary Inquiry?

The Board reviews and evaluates the initial evidence gathered and may dismiss the complaint or move the complaint into Full Investigation.

During a Full Investigation, witnesses may be subpoenaed to give statements, evidence will be gathered and the circumstances of the event clearly defined. A comprehensive summary is returned to the Board and the Members determine whether the case has been resolved, if it should be dismissed or ordered to a Public Hearing.

What is a Public Hearing?

If the Board orders a Public Hearing, the full Board, or a Panel of three Members, will hear the complaint, at a public location at an appointed and advertised time. At the Public Hearing, witnesses will be called to give testimony and evidence will be presented. An official record of the hearing is made. The Members hearing the evidence will deliberate and determine if the facts of the case demonstrate that the alleged misconduct was more likely to have happened than not, and render a finding. If the Board finds that misconduct likely occurred, they will inform the Chief of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and the Mayor. The Board will also make recommendations of discipline, training, systemic changes, policy or procedural changes or any recommendation intended to prevent future occurrences of similar misconduct and designed to promote better relations between the community and police.

Can the Board discipline or fire individual police officers?

No, but the Board can make a recommendation to the Chief and the Mayor to impose discipline, terminate or provide remedial training to an individual officer. The Chief or Mayor must respond to the Board’s recommendations within 30 working days of receiving the recommendations. The Chief or Mayor must inform the Board whether the recommendations are accepted, rejected, or will be implemented with modifications. The Chief and Mayor retain full authority to set discipline policies for the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.

Do Police Officers participate?

The Board conducts impartial investigations. It is in the interest of any officer who is subject of an investigation to provide information to the CPRB investigation. The CPRB Investigator is examining a moment in history involving an encounter between a citizen and a subject officer. The subject officer is a witness to the event, and has information that is critical to the investigation of that event. We expect officer participation, and the enabling legislation requires such participation.

Can the Board require people to participate?

The Board has the power to subpoena people, documents and other evidence. A subpoena compels a person’s presence, but cannot make a person compromise his/her right to avoid self-incrimination.

What happens if a subject officer does not participate?

Some officers do participate in CPRB investigations. However, when they do not, the official police reports are considered to be the officer’s statement, the credibility of which is determined by the evidence produced by the CPRB investigation.

Can the Board prosecute for perjury?

The Board can refer a case to the District Attorney for investigation under applicable criminal statutes relating to sworn statements.

If a police officer is charged with criminal activity related to a Citizen Complaint, what happens to the Citizen Complaint?

The Board will suspend its investigation if a subject officer is the subject of a criminal charge or investigation related to the Citizen Complaint. When the criminal case is resolved, the Board may resume its investigation into the Citizen Complaint.

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