Inspector Steve Rusich – Internal Affairs
Phone: 863-291-5858, ext. 2346
Police staff shall explain the complaint and investigative process to citizens who inquire about filing a complaint. All complaints will be recorded by a supervisor or Internal Affairs staff. All complaints, regardless of nature or manner received, with the exception of those associated with pending civil litigation, will be entered on a Complaint Against Police Officer Form.
Complaints may be filed in person; a Complaint Against Police Officer Form may be mailed by request; or arrangements may be made for an Internal Affairs investigator to meet with the citizen if they are physically unable to visit the police station. Complaints may be submitted anonymously.
When a citizen is found to be physically unable or lacks minimum writing skills to complete the form, it shall be prepared by the receiving member/employee. Citizens unable to speak or write English will be encouraged to submit the complaint in their native language or have an interpreter available.
Within 24 hours of the initial complaint, excluding weekends or holidays; the complaint shall be forwarded to the Chief of Police for review. After review, the Chief of Police shall:
- Forward the complaint to the Internal Affairs Officer for further investigation;
- Declare the complaint unfounded;
- Initiate disciplinary procedure without further investigation;
- Forward the complaint to the supervisor of the affected member for further investigation
The complaint may be forwarded immediately to the Internal Affairs Unit for review and recorded. Complaints of a serious nature, such as corruption or other criminal conduct, shall require the Chief of Police to be immediately notified.
Within 45 calendar days after recorded, the assigned investigator shall forward his/her findings to the Chief of Police. Extensions of this period may be authorized by the Chief of Police and must be requested by the assigned investigator. At the investigation’s conclusion, the Chief of Police shall notify the member/employee and the member/employees’ Commander/Supervisor, in writing of the results. The complainant shall be informed concerning the complaint status, to include verification of receipt of the complaint; periodic status reports; and, upon conclusion of the complaint, the Chief of Police shall be responsible for notifying all complainants in writing of the findings and conclusions.
The Department constantly seeks to improve operational efficiencies. Sometimes investigations disclose faulty procedures that otherwise would have gone undetected. Thus, these procedures can be improved or corrected.
Minors who wish to file a sworn complaint must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian and the sworn complaint should be signed by the parent or legal guardian and the minor.
Members and supervisors initiating a complaint against another member shall adhere to the following procedures:
A typewritten memo will be prepared and directed to the attention of the involved member’s Bureau Commander via the chain of command.
A legitimate objective of law enforcement agencies is protecting the public by enforcing law in a fair and impartial manner, recognizing both statutory and judicial limitations of police authority, while protecting rights of all persons.
Anyone may file a complaint with the Department if they feel they have been stopped or searched based on racial, ethnic, or gender-based profiling, and no person shall be discouraged, intimidated, or coerced from filing such a complaint, or discriminated against because they have filed a complaint. Complaint procedures and their investigations are outlined in Departmental General Orders.
On an annual basis, the Department prepares a summary and analysis of all filed complaints. With this summary, practices of departmental personnel, along with the concerns of the citizens of this community, will be reviewed. Supervisors may periodically review profiling complaints, reports filed on stops by officers, respond at random to back up officers on police actions and shall take appropriate action whenever it appears this policy is being violated. They shall be particularly alert to any pattern or practice of bias-based profiling by individual officers or groups. If identified, disciplinary action shall be taken as outlined in Departmental General Orders.
The Winter Haven Police Department will make available to the public, information pamphlets regarding interacting with law enforcement officials and procedures to file a commendation or complaint on a Department member. These pamphlets are available in the Police Department lobby and provided to citizens staff may come in contact with. Other avenues to disseminate this information may include meetings with civic groups, crime watch and citizen police academy programs.