Americans are demanding greater accountability for the officers tasked with keeping them safe. One popular form of accountability is the establishment of citizen-led organizations, independent from police departments, that can investigate and address civilian complaints about officer misconduct. In practice, however, creating a process that can effectively adjudicate civilian complaints is complicated. First, civilians need to trust that their complaint will actually lead to some positive outcome, or they will not be likely to engage with the complaints process. Then, even if they do begin the process, most complaints take a year or more to resolve and many complainants drop out of the process before it is resolved. In addition, disciplinary action following review remains rare.
We are partnering with the agency tasked with processing civilian complaints related to police misconduct in a large city, to design and test the impact of adjustments to the agency’s outreach strategy and process on citizen satisfaction and engagement with the agency, as well as perceptions of police accountability and the justice system.