Criminal complaints against police officers

Since 2016, California has been publishing the number of criminal complaints made against law enforcement officers by  the public and how many were “sustained” – or deemed to be “true, by a preponderance of evidence.” 

Before 2016, the Department of Justice only published statewide data without listing specific agencies. 

Now, four years of data show which departments received the most complaints, and at what rate they sustained those complaints. 

The data show that, since 2016, law enforcement agencies statewide sustained 7.6% of criminal complaints against their officers.

But there were wide variations. For instance, in 2017, the Department of Corrections sustained 22% of complaints against its officers — nearly triple the statewide average. 

And in 2018, the Oakland Police Department also upheld criminal complaints against officers at a rate far outpacing the statewide average. The department has been under the supervision of an outside monitoring team and a federal judge since 2003, the result of a class action lawsuit settlement that accused Oakland police officers of beating residents and planting evidence.

In California, each department is its own fiefdom, with its own rules and procedures for adjudicating complaints. 

Not surprisingly, the Los Angeles Police Department — one of the nation’s largest and the state’s most populous city — received the most complaints between 2016 and 2020. The department sustained those complaints at a rate of between 5% and 7%, which is below the statewide average.