CPD issues complaint report

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Police Department released its year-end report on complaints made by citizens and internal complaints among officers on Wednesday.

The department received a total of 36 internal complaints within the department and 103 complaints from the community last year.  In 2016, CPD got 91 complaints.

The report listed disrespectful or discriminatory treatment as the top complaint. Other issues included law enforcement not taking appropriate action and actions that discredit the department. 

Sgt. Brian Tate leads the internal affairs unit and says the department takes complaints “very seriously.”

Twenty five of last year's complaints were deemed unfounded, meaning upon further investigation, the event “did not occur or were misconstrued.” Two of the complaints were unsubstantiated for lack of evidence.

Three of the claims had sufficient evidence to prove misconduct. Of these cases, officers failed to use appropriate action, used discourteous behavior or neglected duty. Tate said, in instances where officers use inappropriate language with citizens, they will receive retraining.

Tate said the department uses body camera footage to review complaints. People are able to review specific instances from body camera footage. Officers are required to start recording before approaching a person in order to capture the entirety of the situation. 

“A lot of times, if it’s a complaint I can show them, the part of the instance they’re talking about or concerned about, we can come in and watch it together,” Tate said.

He said the department is unable to sort through hours of footage for specific cases. Parties are able to submit a Sunshine request to obtain entire footage of an event, though it may not always be granted. 

Tate said CPD is in line with national trends, according to a recent survey by the National Institute of Justice. The report found “police use of force is rare, and when force is used officers most commonly rely on unarmed physical force.”

Tate said he wants the community to realize “officers are responding to resistance when appropriate."

"They’re not using excessive force," he said. "We investigate each use of force and response to resistance seriously through multiple levels.

Tate also said significant injuries to citizens are rare and the department looks into “use of force cases "very extensively.” He said investigations are detailed, require multiple interviews and re-watching video. 

“If at any time they feel like that were wronged or see something that doesn’t quite look right to them, they are welcome to come down here and make an official complaint,” he said.

Residents can submit complaints online or by phone as well.