Citizen Complaint Procedures

It is the policy of the North Andover Police Department that all citizens have the right to initiate a complaint concerning police operations or behavior and receive a fair, thorough and timely response. It is the policy of the department that the process of citizen complaint receipt, processing and investigation will protect both the citizen’s and the department member’s rights.

It is also the policy of the North Andover Police Department that all allegations of all member misconduct will be promptly adjudicated. Discipline, when necessary, will be consistent and fair, according to the nature of the offense, protecting the member’s rights as a citizen.

The primary responsibility of the Internal Affairs Function is to respond to allegations of misconduct against the North Andover Police Department and its officers. The Internal Affairs component will be responsible for recording, and investigating formal complaints, criminal and non-criminal, against officers; maintaining the confidentiality of Internal Affairs investigations and records. The Internal Affairs function is also responsible for reviewing the departmental reports filed by shift supervisors regarding the handling of informal complaints. The Internal Affairs function of the Department will be a component and a responsibility of the Office of the Chief of Police. The officer assigned to that function shall have the authority to directly report to the Chief. This component will ensure that the integrity of the department is maintained through an internal system where objectivity, fairness, and justice are assured by intensive, impartial investigation and review.

RULES: The following rules will be adhered to by all Members of the North Andover Police Department:

  • All complaints received by the North Andover Police Department will be investigated in accordance with this policy.
  • Any Member, in the field, who is told by a citizen that they desire to file a citizen complaint shall advise that citizen that such a complaint can be filed at the Police Station.
  • Every citizen who files a formal complaint will be advised as to the outcome of the complaint.
  • Informal complaints of a criminal or non-criminal nature received by the Department will be investigated in accordance with this policy.
  • Members will be informed of all complaints lodged against them immediately, or as soon as practical and appropriate.
  • Member will also be advised of the final disposition as soon as practical and appropriate.

The following procedures will be followed by Members of the Department in processing citizen complaints:


Complaints can be received by the Chief, the Commander or a Duty Supervisor. The Chief has designated Duty Supervisors to receive complaints from citizens.

When a complainant tells a Duty Supervisor he/she desires to file a complaint, the Duty Supervisor is to ask the complainant, in private, to describe the complaint.


Duty Supervisors are to make every reasonable effort to resolve informal non-criminal complaints, with the concurrence of the citizen, at the lowest possible level without submission of a formal complaint.

If the citizen does not concur with the efforts of the Duty Supervisor to resolve the complaint informally, or does not concur with the action(s) taken by the Duty Supervisor, the Duty Supervisor will refer the complaint to Internal Affairs for further investigation.

Formal complaints of a non-criminal nature will only be accepted from parties who have firsthand knowledge of an allegation. Firsthand knowledge shall mean that the person was either involved in the incident, or was an eyewitness to the incident. Third party non-criminal formal complaints will be treated as informal complaints.

If the complaint is of a criminal nature, the complainant is to be requested to complete a Citizen Complaint Form detailing in the complainant’s own words what happened. If the form is signed by the complainant, it becomes the basis of a Formal Complaint.

Upon completion of a Citizen Complaint Form by a citizen, the Duty Supervisor will sign the form and provide the citizen with a copy. The complainant will be informed of the Department’s disposition upon completion of the investigation.

The Duty Supervisor will submit the form to the Internal Affairs function by the end of the tour of duty. The Internal Affairs officer will notify the Chief of Police whenever he/she receives a Formal Complaint.

Complainants may change an informal complaint to a formal complaint at any time during the investigation of the complaint.


The Chief may accept mailed written, formal complaints. When a citizen files a complaint by mail, the Chief will forward the complaint to the Internal Affairs function for investigation, with immediate notification made to involved officer(s) when practical and appropriate.


All complaints, including anonymous complaints against the Department or its officers, will receive an appropriate investigation. Should the investigation prove the accusation to be false, that will complete the investigation.

The Chief will assign the complaint to the Operations Division Commander. He may assign the complaint to a Sergeant for investigation:

  • If the complaint is minor and non-criminal in nature, the officer’s supervisor may be assigned the complaint for investigation.
  • If the complaint is major or criminal in nature, (such as a civil rights violation, criminal act, or brutality more serious than rudeness or verbal abuse) it will be assigned to the Internal Affairs unit for investigation.


In the interest of organizational integrity and fairness, when the Department notifies an employee that they have become the subject of an internal affairs investigation, they shall be issued a written statement of the allegations and the employee’s rights and responsibilities relative to the investigation.


The Superior Officer will investigate the complaint, collect reports, and make recommendations to the Internal Affairs Unit. When requested by a Superior Officer, an officer will be required to submit a written report concerning any alleged incident or matter being investigated wherein the officer may have been involved either as a participant or a witness. The Superior Officer’s recommendation will contain the following information:

  • Statement of the allegations made by the complainant.
  • Statement of the situation as described by the officer involved.
  • Description of the facts to which the complainant and officer agree.
  • Description of the issues and allegations to which the complainant and the officer disagree.
  • Statement of evidence which supports each side of these disagreements.
  • Conclusion and statement of what occurred based upon the Superior Officer’s analysis of the supporting evidence.
  • Recommended classification of the complaint into one of the following classifications: Sustained, Exonerated, Not Sustained, or Unfounded.


All Internal Affairs investigations shall be completed within thirty days of initiation unless extenuating circumstances exist. In all such investigations, after the 30 day initial time period, status reports shall be submitted every seven days, by the Superior Officer conducting the investigation, to the Internal Affairs Unit.

If a citizen complaint investigation is still pending at the end of 30 days, a letter shall be sent to both the complainant and involved officer(s), stating that the investigation is continuing, along with an estimate of how long it may take for the investigation to be completed. A progress report will also be submitted by the Superior Officer conducting the investigation, to the Internal Affairs Unit, indicating the current status and projected completion date. Such a report will be prepared every 7 days.

A decision on the complaint will be made by the Office of the Chief based on one of the following classifications:

  • Sustained
  • Exonerated
  • Not Sustained
  • Unfounded

The officer will be notified in writing of the disposition of the complaint.

The Chief, or designee, will notify the complainant to apprise the complainant of the results of the investigation.

If the complaint is SUSTAINED, disciplinary action may be initiated, consistent with the policy and procedures on progressive discipline outlined in this manual.

If an allegation is sustained but the action complained about was not inconsistent with Department policy, the Department will then review the policy to determine what change(s), if any, need to be made. When necessary, clearer guidelines to Department personnel could prevent a reoccurrence of the type of action complained about.


The Department has established guidelines regarding which categories of complaints will be handled and investigated by the Internal Affairs function, and which by a Supervisor, as a part of routine discipline. The criteria for determining the categories of complaints to be investigated by Internal Affairs include, but are not limited to, the following allegations:

  • Corruption
  • Brutality
  • Use of Excessive Force
  • Violation of Civil Rights
  • Criminal Misconduct

Criminal Complaint – Whenever a member is accused of committing a criminal act, whether on duty or off duty, the Duty Supervisor shall immediately notify the Chief and the Commander.

Prosecutorial Liaison – When appropriate, the Department will maintain liaison with the prosecutorial staff of any competent jurisdiction (for advice and guidance) in the investigation of any Member’s alleged criminal misconduct.

Administrative Complaint – Complaints against the Department or one of its members of an administrative nature, shall be forwarded to the Office of the Chief by the Duty Supervisor by the end of the tour of duty when it is received.

To file a citizen complaint, please complete the Citizen Complaint Form and deliver it in person or by mail to the North Andover Police Department.