Frequently Asked Questions

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The Durham County Sheriff's Office is committed to providing high-quality, professional service to every member of the community. If you feel that a member of the DCSO did not meet this standard in serving you, or if you suspect a member has engaged in corruption, excessive force or other serious misconduct, the DCSO encourages you to file a formal complaint. All complaints against agency members, sworn or civilian are investigated thoroughly and objectively. This fact sheet explains how the process works.

What types of complaints can be filed?
How are complaints filed?
Are anonymous complaints accepted?
Is there a preliminary investigation?
What are the possible outcomes of an investigation?
Will I be notified of the outcome?


What types of complaints can be filed?

Complaints can be filed alleging any improper or unprofessional behavior or conduct by any employee of the Durham County Sheriff's Office, sworn or civilian. These include (but are not limited to) complaints about law enforcement service, unprofessional conduct, demeaning language, harassment or excessive force. A citizen complaint may be a direct allegation by an individual, or third party or group allegation.

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How are complaints filed?
You may go to any DCSO facility and ask to file a complaint. Any member of the DCSO can take the initial complaint and will forward same to the accused member's supervisor. While it is preferable for citizens to file their complaint in person, complaints registered by correspondence, telephone or e-mail will be investigated. You may submit a complaint by printing the Complaint Form [PDF] from the website and mail to: Chief Deputy Donald R. Ladd, Durham County Sheriff's Office, Post Office Box 170, Durham, NC 27702.

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Are anonymous complaints accepted?
A complaint may be accepted from an anonymous source, provided there is enough factual information to permit an investigation. Anonymous complaints are not recommended, because they are so difficult to investigate.

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Is there a preliminary investigation?

Yes. The agency member taking the complaint will forward it to the accused member's supervisor. If the accused member's supervisor is not available then it will be forwarded to the on-duty supervisor. The assigned supervisor will evaluate the complaint for severity and settle or further investigate the complaint. In evaluating the complaint the receiving supervisor will determine if the complaint can be handled at the level of authority at which the complaint was received. Most cases are handled at the supervisory level; only the most serious allegations are investigated directly by Internal Affairs. Each citizen complaint is investigated in an objective, independent, fair and ethical manner. The investigating official will contact you within three (3) working days of being assigned to the investigation and provide you with information about how to contact him. Investigating officials are generally allowed 15 working days in which to conduct a thorough investigation into the facts and circumstances of the complaint. In special situations, an extension may be granted. The employee against whom a complaint is made will always be given an opportunity to respond to the complaint.

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What are the possible outcomes of an investigation?

After gathering and analyzing all evidence, the investigating official will prepare a written report containing findings and recommendations. The report is forwarded up the chain of command to the Chief Deputy. The report will contain one of four specific findings:
• Unfounded - The allegation is false or there is insufficient evidence to support the allegation;
• Not Sustained - There is insufficient evidence to either prove or disprove the allegation;
• Exonerated - The incident complained of occurred, but was lawful and proper; or
• Sustained - The allegation is supported by sufficient evidence to indicate that the allegation is true.

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Will I be notified of the outcome?

Due to the personnel privacy statutes, the only information that may be released to a complainant about the resolution of their complaint, is that an investigation has been completed.

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