- What is the Review Board?
San Diego County voters established the Citizens' Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB) in 1990 to independently and impartially investigate citizen complaints against San Diego County Sheriff's deputies and probation officers. The Review Board is composed of eleven volunteers from the County's five Supervisory Districts. Members are not affiliated with the Sheriff's Department, Probation Department, or the County of San Diego. Review Board members are nominated by the County's Chief Administrative Officer and appointed by the Board of Supervisors. The Review Board currently is supported by three County employees: an executive officer, an investigator, and an administrative assistant.
- What does the Review Board do?
The County's Charter Section 606 charges the Review Board with receiving, reviewing, and investigating complaints about the conduct of peace officers performing their duties while employed by the Sheriff's Department or the Probation Department. The Review Board also investigates deaths that arise out of, or in connection with, the actions of these peace officers, regardless of whether a complaint is filed. The Review Board makes advisory findings on complaints and recommendations for policy and procedure changes to the Sheriff, Chief Probation Officer, and the Board of Supervisors. The focus of the Review Board is fact-finding, not advocacy for complainants or peace officers. The Review Board also publishes meeting agendas, minutes, summary and statistical reports and provides "early warning reports" to the Sheriff and Chief Probation Officer.
- Who may file a complaint?
Anyone may file a complaint regardless of age, citizenship, residence, disability, criminal record, incarceration or any other characteristic.
- Whom may the Review Board investigate?
The Review Board has jurisdiction over complaints about the conduct of peace officers currently employed as deputies in the Sheriff's Department and as probation officers in the Probation Department. The Review Board does not have jurisdiction over complaints about the conduct of civilian employees of these departments, including complaints about medical care.
- What does the Review Board investigate?
The Review Board investigates allegations of use of excessive force, discrimination or sexual harassment, the improper discharge of firearms, illegal search or seizure, false arrest, false reporting, criminal conduct, death arising out of or in connection with the actions of a deputy or probation officer, and misconduct.
- What is misconduct?
Misconduct is any alleged improper or illegal act, omission or decision, directly affecting the person or property of an individual by reason of an alleged violation of Sheriff's Department or Probation orders or guidelines; an alleged violation of law; or any alleged improper or unbecoming conduct by a peace officer employed by the Sheriff's Department or the Probation Department. Examples include discourtesy, harassment, intimidation, procedure, retaliation, and truthfulness.
- How do I file a complaint?
You may start the process by contacting Review Board staff by phone, fax, email, U.S. mail, or in person. In order for Review Board staff to begin an investigation, your complaint must be in writing and signed under penalty of perjury. You may reach the Review Board at 555 W Beech Street, Suite 505, San Diego, CA 92101-2940; phone: (619)238-6776; Fax: (619) 238-6775, or by email at email@example.com. Collect calls are accepted; anonymous complaints are not.
- Is there a time limit for filing?
Yes. A complaint must be received by the Review Board within one year of the incident that led to the complaint. If you were incarcerated or physically or mentally incapacitated during that year, the time of incarceration or incapacity is not counted in determining the one-year filing deadline.
- What happens when I contact the Review Board?
Review Board staff interviews you about your complaint and reviews any documents you provide. Staff explains the investigative process. Staff summarizes the complaint in writing and mails it to you for review, signature under penalty of perjury, and prompt return to the Review Board. The complaint package also contains a brochure, customer satisfaction survey, release for medical records if necessary, and an acknowledgement that investigative materials are confidential and may not be obtained from staff by request or subpoena. If your complaint involves a peace officer other than a deputy or probation officer employed by the County of San Diego, staff will refer you to the appropriate agency. Please note that staff does not provide legal or financial advice or private investigative services.
- What happens when I return a signed complaint?
When staff receives your signed complaint and acknowledgement that investigative records are confidential, an investigation begins. A copy of the complaint is sent to the Sheriff and Chief Probation Officer and the involved deputy or probation officer. Staff gathers evidence, such as reports, photographs, diagrams, and video. Staff also interviews witnesses, including involved deputies and probation officers, and may visit the scene of an incident. Staff may subpoena persons or records. Staff evaluates the evidence according to applicable law and polices and procedures of the Sheriff's Department or Probation Department. Staff prepares a written report for Review Board members with recommended findings and recommendations for policy or procedure changes, as applicable.
- What happens after staff completes the investigation?
Complainants, the involved deputies or probation officers, and the Sheriff's and Probation departments are notified in writing of staff's recommendation and the date the Review Board will consider the complaint. Review Board Members examine case evidence and review staff's investigative reports in preparation for monthly or bi-monthly meetings. The Review Board meets at the County Administrative Center, 1600 Pacific Highway in downtown San Diego in Room 302/3 at 5:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month to consider staff's reports and recommendations and make final decisions on complaints.
- How long does an investigation take to complete?
Investigations often take up to one year to complete. Death cases and other complex investigations often take more than one year to complete. Complaints are investigated in the order received, but cases involving death or allegations of serious injury take priority.
- What happens at Review Board meetings?
Review Board meetings have open and closed sessions. Open session is a business meeting open to the public and includes a work report from the executive officer and training for Board Members on law enforcement topics. Complainants and any member of the public may address the Review Board for three minutes during the public comment portion of open session on a matter within the Review Board’s jurisdiction. After open session concludes, the Review Board goes into closed session with only Board Members, staff, and legal counsel present. The Review Board considers staff’s reports and recommendations and makes decisions on complaints behind closed doors.
- Why are complaints reviewed in closed session?
Peace officer records, including complaints, are confidential under California laws and court decisions. Thus discussions about complaints and investigations concerning peace officers, such as deputies and probation officers, are closed to the public, including complainants. Similarly, staff’s investigative reports to the Review Board and any evidence obtained during the investigation are confidential and may not be disclosed to complainants or the public. After considering staff’s report and recommendation, Board Members decide based on the evidence whether an allegation is Sustained, Not Sustained, Unfounded, Action Justified, or Summary Dismissal.
- What are the definitions of these findings?
DEFINITION OF FINDINGS Sustained The evidence supports the allegation and the act or conduct was not justified. Not Sustained There was insufficient evidence to either prove or disprove the allegation. Action Justified The evidence shows the alleged act or conduct did occur but was lawful, justified and proper. Unfounded The evidence shows that the alleged act or conduct did not occur. Summary Dismissal The Review Board lacks jurisdiction or the complaint clearly lacks merit.
- What happens after the Review Board makes a decision on a complaint?
Complainants, involved deputies and probation officers, the Sheriff’s Department, the Probation Department, and the Board of Supervisors are notified of the decision in writing.
- What affect do the Review Board's decisions and recommendations have?
The Review Board’s decisions on complaints and any related recommendations are advisory and non-binding. This means the Review Board does not have authority to compel the Sheriff’s Department or the Probation Department to adopt its decisions, take action on policy recommendations, or impose discipline on a deputy or probation officer for a sustained misconduct finding.
- Is filing a complaint with the Review Board the same as filing a criminal or civil complaint, a County Claim, or a complaint with the Sheriff's or Probation Department?
No. The Review Board conducts independent investigations of complaints for the purpose of advising the Sheriff, Chief Probation Officer, and Board of Supervisors. Filing a complaint with the Review Board does not preclude you from filing a complaint with the Sheriff’s Department, Probation Department, a County Claim for reimbursement, or a criminal or civil action. The Review Board’s investigation is separate and distinct from any other investigation, claim, or action.
- Can I get a copy of the investigation?
No. Staff’s investigative materials and reports to Board Members are confidential under California law and may not be disclosed to complainant or the public. A complainant receives a written copy of the signed complaint with confirmation that an investigation has begun, return (if requested) of any original documents provided, staff’s recommendation, notice of the Review Board’s meeting, and the Review Board’s decision.
- What else do I need to know?
Complainants must maintain current contact information so staff can ask follow up questions and provide written notice of the Review Board’s meeting and decision on the complaint. Complainants must also cooperate with staff by returning phone calls and providing additional information or evidence if requested. If a complainant fails to maintain current contact information or cooperate in the investigation, staff will recommend that the Review Board dismiss the complaint without further investigation.
- How can I get involved?
Attend a Review Board Meeting, invite Review Board staff to make a presentation to your community group or class, or apply to serve your community as a Review Board Member.
- How can I become a Review Board Member?
Candidates for Review Board membership must be registered to vote in San Diego County and have a demonstrated interest in public service. Candidates fill out an application form, are interviewed by County staff, and undergo a background check by the District Attorneys’ Office. County employees and persons employed as peace officers are ineligible to serve. Applications are reviewed by the County’s Chief Administrative Officer, who has discretion to nominate the candidate to the Board of Supervisors. The nomination is placed before the Board of Supervisors for a vote. The successful candidate is appointed by the Board of Supervisors.
- What is the time commitment for a Review Board Member?
Members serve a three-year term for up to two consecutive terms. Members spend 5-15 hours preparing for and participating in monthly or bi-monthly meetings. Members also complete training provided by the Sheriff’s, Probation, and County Counsel departments and participate in ride-alongs and facility tours. Members periodically attend community meetings to talk about the Review Board. Members must file annual statements of economic interest, which are public documents. Applications may be submitted at any time and are available on this website (See “About CLERB/FAQ’s), at meetings, or upon request from staff.