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
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
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.