officer: I tried to help you, but obvously you've got issues.
tester: I don't have issues, man.
Police Station Intimidation-Parts 1 and 2
Undercover Video You'll Find hard To Believe
I-Team Uncovers Imtimidation In Complaint Process
Most police officers are a credit to the badge, serving the community and the people who pay their salary, getting criminals off the street, making the community safer for everyone.
But on occasion, a police officer and a member of the public they serve don’t see eye to eye, and the citizen feels a need to complain. In many departments around the country, the process starts out simply: a person just requests a complaint form.
Police departments around the country, like here in Tallahassee, give citizens police complaint forms all the time, no questions asked. But walk into a police station in South Florida, trying to find out how to file a complaint, and watch what happens.
CBS4 News found that, in police departments across Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, large and small, it was virtually impossible to walk in the door, and walk out with a complaint form.
The I-Team conducted an extensive hidden camera test, carried out by a police abuse watchdog group called the Police Complaint Center. Remarkably, of 38 different police stations tested around South Florida, all but three had no police complaint forms.
Florida City P.D. and Homestead P.D. had them, as did the City of Miami, in three languages -- English, Spanish, and Kreole.
“Your job is to explain how you take the complaint and make no judgement, even though you may say, this person looks like they just dropped in from Mars”, said Timoney, “That's not your job.”
After hearing our undercover video described, in which representatives of different departments were seen refusing to supply complaint forms, and at times, appearing to belittle or insult the undercover tester for asking (see transcripts below), Timoney said at times the behavior seemed inappropriate for his department’s standards.
“If a supervisor attempted to not take a complaint or cover up a complaint,” said Timoney, “we would investigate that supervisor. I guarantee you, the discipline would be severe, if a supervisor didn't take the report.”
In the I-team’s undercover investigation, there was one incident in which our tester went in to file a complaint. After several times asking for a form, being told "you're not leaving without a form," he was asked to leave and actually walked off the property, to the point where the officer reached for his gun, put his hand on his gun and said, "Take a step closer, and see what happens.".
Miami Chief Timoney was surprised at that response. ”I hope it wasn't my police officer. That's very serious. I'd treat it very serious.”
In the end, Timoney says cops intimidating citizens alone is bad enough. What's worse is cops denying citiizens the very forms on which they need to complain about such behavior. Citizen complaint forms that create a paper trail, so that complaints can't possibly be ignored.
And even worse than that, says Timoney, is when a police department itself doesn't have a complaint form policy to begin with. And that, he says, when you consider the many other departments in the country that do, is not right and not good for the image of South Florida law enforcement.
“Anytime you don't get police departments or other institutions to do what's right”, said Timoney, ”if the agency is not doing it properly, fire the chief. If I'm not doing it properly, fire me”
These are transcripts of conversations between police officers at the departments named and our tester:
tester: Yeah, I wanted to find out how to file a complaint against an officer. I just want to find out how you do it. Do you guys have a form or something that I could take with me.
officer: Well, you got to tell me first, and then I got to hear what's going on. You've got to tell me what the complaint is.
tester: Do you have a complaint form that I can, like, fill out or something like that?
officer: Might not be a legitimate complaint.
tester: Who decides that?
officer: I'm trying to help you.
tester: Like, if there's a form, why can't I just take it and leave, right?
officer: No, you don't leave with forms. You tell me what happened, and then I help you from there. Do you have I-D on?
officer: You know what? You need to leave.
officer: I'm going to tell you one more time, because I can't do this anymore with you, okay. You're refusing to tell me what you want to do, okay. You're refusing to tell me who's involved, where it happened, what transpired. You'e not cooperating iwth me one bit.
tester: I was just asking if you guys have a complaint form, like if there's some way for me --
officer: Out of my way.
tester: To contact Internal Affairs.
officer: You can do whatever the hell you want. It's a free country.
man" You're cursing at me.
officer: Where do you live? Where do you live? You have to tell me where you live, what your name is, or anything like that.
tester: For a complaint? I mean, like, if I have --
officer: Are you on medications?
tester: Why would you ask me something like that?
officer: Because you're not answering any of my questions.
tester: Am I on medications?
officer: I asked you. It's a free country. I can ask you that.
tester: Okay, you're right.
officer: So you're not going to tell me who you are, you're not going to tell me what the problem is.You're not going to identify yourself.
tester: All I asked you was, like, how do I contact --
officer: You said you have a complaint. You say my officers are acting in an inappropriate manner.
officer: So leave now. Leave now. Leave now.
tester: I'm not doing anything wrong.
officer: Neither am I. It's a free country.
officer: I'm not in your face. I'm standing on the sidewalk. It's a free country. One more step forward, and you'll see what happens. Take one more step forward.)
(Miami-Dade PD Midwest Station
tester: Yeah, I'm trying to find out how to file a complaint against an officer.
officer: What station does he work at?
tester: I'm ont saying he works at this facility. I'm trying to file --
officer: My question is where does he work at? He works here at this district? Just try to answer my question. I think you think this is a big conspiracy.
tester: I want to find out how you file a complaint. That's what I'm asking.
officer: If you think you can walk in here and go straight to the director of Metro Dade Police without telling me any details, you can't do it. And I -- for some reason, you think that, I don't know why. You think it's a big conspiracy, that we're going to hide some information about what happened to you, I don't know. Is it a traffic ticket? Is it something, you know, (?) complaint. That he stole your lunch money, did he steal your money, did he have sex with your wife, what?)
(Hialeah Gardens PD
tester: I want to know, how can I go about filing a complaint against a police officer?
officer: Where did the incident happen? What street?
tester: Sir, I --
officer: I'm here to hear the complaint. I'm going to take the complaint, so you've got to speak to me so that we can discuss this and see what we can do. Speak to me about it. When did this happne?
tester: Sir --
officer: Leave. Leave.
tester: So you're not going to take my complaint?
officer: Yes, I'm trying to! ANswer my questions!
tester: I don't really want to discuss it. I have --
officer: I'm going to investigate it!
tester: Is there any other way I can go about it?
officer: Do you have psychological problems or what?)
(South Miami PD
tester: I'm trying to find out how to file a complaint against a police officer. Is there a complaint form or something like that?
officer: It don't work that way.
tester: You said there's not a complaint form that I can just -- there's nothing I can just get and take and fill out?
officer: That ain't hte way it works.)
officer: What can I do for you?
tester: I'm trying to find out how to file a complaint against an officer.
officer: Which officer would that be?
tester: Um, I mean, I just want to find out how to do it right now. That's what I want.
officer: You would talk to me.
tester: So there's not, like, a form or something? That's the only way to do it.
(Hallandale Beach PD
tester: I want to know how to file a complaint against an officer.
officer: If you want to file a complaint, I need to know what officer, so I know what sergeant to send you to.
tester: Do you have a complaint form or something?
officer: No, you'll have to talk to a sergeant.)
(Sunny Isles PD
tester: Yeah, I'm trying to find out how to file a complaint against an officer? Have you got a complaint form?
officer: No, you have to talk to a sergeant.)
(Miami Springs PD
tester: Okay, so like, there's not a form or something?
(Miami Beach PD
tester: Okay, there's not, like, a form or anything like that I can take?
(Pembroke Pines PD
tester: I'm just trying to find out how to file a complaint against an officer.
officer: You need to talk to the supervisor, up the hall.
tester: Is there a form around here I can take?
(Coral Gables PD
tester: You don't have a complaint form or anything like that?
officer: A what?
tester: A complaint form.
officer: You have to go through a sergeant first.
tester: So that's the only way to do it, to sit down with a sergeant?
officer: That's the only way.
tester: Not a form? No form to give me?
officer: No, we don't have a generic form.
tester: No generic form?
(City of Pinecrest PD
tester: How do I file a complaint against an officer?
officer: Um --
tester: Is there a form or something?
officer: A form? No, there's no form.)
(Wilton Manors PD
tester: You don't have a brochure that I can leave?
officer: There's no form, there's no brochure, there's nothing like that.)
(Sea Ranch PD
cop; We don't give you -- we don't give you a form. Where do you live?
tester: I don't want to say.
officer: You don't want to say?
tester: Where are you going?
officer: You want to play hardball? We'll play hardball. I want ID.
tester: For what?
officer: I'm asking you for ID right now, that's why. Here, hand it to me. Hand it to me.
tester: Are you kidding me? Here.
officer: I said, hand me your ID. What are you doing here? This is --
tester: I came to ask you how to file a complaint.
officer: This is very suspicious.
tester: Asking how to file a complaint is suspicious?
officer: Why don't you shut up?
officer: I say this is very suspicious, that you pull in here at this time of night --
tester: Eight o'clock?
officer: You're constantly butting in.
tester: I'm constantly butting in?
Mike: Sir, I would like to leave.
officer: I would love it, but he's got your driver's license, so you're just going to have to stay.
Mike: Sir, are you detaining us?
officer: Okay, could I give you a ticket right now for improper backing.
Mike: You can do whatever you want, I suppose.
officer: Okay, that means yes, I guess you're saying, right? ANd for backing up, correct, yes?
Mike: I was backing up, sir, because I was leaving.
officer: But because I'm a nice guy, okay, I'm going to give you a warning. Is that fair?
Mike: Yes, sir.
(Broward sheriff North Lauderdale
tester: There's no way, like, to just write it down or something like --
officer: Well, first, why don't you tell me what happened, and I'll tell you if somebody did something wrong to you.
Tester: I feel like I know when somebody did something wrong, I mean, like, you know --
officer: Maybe not. Some people don't. Some people think we're not allowed to do certain things, and we are. Sometimes, you know, some guys take it overboard, and they're not allowed to do that.
officer: I don't know what happened.
tester: Right, right. Yeah, I mean, I don't want to talk --
officer: I tried to help you, but obvously you've got issues.
tester: I don't have issues, man.)