FARRELL, PA. Police revise gripe system

The new complaint form requires the seal of a notary public.
FARRELL, Pa. -- It just got a little more complicated to file a complaint against a Southwest Mercer County Regional police officer, but Police Chief Joseph Timko said the new procedure actually benefits the person making the complaint.
The change sets up a specific investigative chain of command for dealing with complaints, something that was lacking in the old policy, Timko said.
In the past, officers were only required to take a complaint, put it in writing and notify their superior that it was filed.
The policy gave officers the option of trying to resolve a complaint themselves.
Formal policy: The new policy asks the person making the complaint to fill out a form designed for that purpose.
It allows the person to put his or her concerns in their own words, and the complaint form requires the stamp of a notary public showing that the person filing the document swears that what it contains is the truth.
The complaint then goes directly to the chief who immediately investigates or assigns another officer to investigate.
The chief then comes up with a recommended disciplinary action, if one is warranted, and the Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Commission must approve that recommendation or take some action of its own.
Complaints against the chief will go directly to the commission chairman.
Timko said he showed the policy to Fraternal Order of Police representatives and no objections were raised.
The commission approved the procedure change last week.
James DeCapua, commission chairman, expressed concern that requiring a notary public seal on the complaint form might dissuade some people from making a complaint.
Timko said the department will still investigate any complaint against a police officer or a department policy but the new procedure gives the department much more to work with than just a verbal complaint.

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