Police Personnel Complaints & Commendations



The Petaluma Police Department is committed to providing quality service to the community and welcomes feedback, including critical comments about employee performance. If you have a complaint or commendation, it may be made:

In Person:        Police Headquarters, 969 Petaluma Blvd North, Petaluma, CA 94952

Phone:             Non-Emergency Business Line (707) 778-4373

Office of the Chief of Police:  (707) 778-4730

Email:              [email protected]

Fax:                 (707) 656-4059 or (707) 778-4502

Office of the Independent Police Auditor:  (707) 927-0727

Website:          https://www.petalumapoliceauditor.org/

Email:              [email protected]


The Police Department provides the following forms in English or Spanish to assist community members with filing a commendation or complaint.  Commendations and complaints can be submitted online using the link below or by the standard complaint form, letter, email, phone, or fax.

English  / Spanish

Citizen Complaint (leftasystems.net)

Citizen Compliment (leftasystems.net)


Commendations, either verbal or written, are one of the best ways to let a Police Department staff member know that you appreciate their hard work. A commendation for an employee of the Police Department is most often sent to the Chief of Police. You may also advise the employee’s supervisor or Watch Commander. Your comments can be made in person, by telephone or by using the above forms.

A commendation may address any event that you deem noteworthy on the part of an employee whom you believe should be recognized. This may range from the display of unusual courtesy or professionalism, to significant life-saving measures or heroic acts.

Commendations are formally documented and shared with the involved employees.


All Police Departments in the State of California are required by law to have a process by which community members may make a complaint against police personnel.

There are two types of civilian complaints. The first is an informal complaint. This complaint is normally handled by the employee’s supervisor for investigation and corrective action as necessary.

The second type of complaint is the formal civilian complaint. Formal civilian complaints may be submitted at any time and usually involve more serious conduct.  Formal civilian complaints are managed and investigated by Professional Standards through the Office of the Chief of Police and can be lodged with the on-duty supervisor or watch commander.


What should you expect when you are contacted by the police? What are the police expecting of you? Our officers are trained to handle an array of situations calmly and professionally, but it is important that you cooperate with the direction from officers and remain peaceful even if the interaction ends in an arrest.

Following your encounter with the police, if you feel there was misconduct or improper job performance you may contact the Petaluma Police Department and file a complaint. We take complaints very seriously and follow up on all allegations.

What to do during a traffic stop:

  • Pull to the right.
  • Put the vehicle in park.
  • Roll down the window.
  • Turn on inside lights.
  • Keep your hands visible.
  • Expect the officer to engage you respectfully and reciprocate the same.
  • Ask before reaching for anything.
  • You will be asked to provide a Driver’s License, Registration & Proof of Insurance.
  • You may be asked questions about the vehicle and other occupants.
  • If weapons are present leave them where they are and notify the officer. Keep your hands visible.
  • Notify the officer if injured or medical attention is needed.
  • Stay peaceful

What to do during a pedestrian stop:

  • Expect the Officer to engage you respectfully and reciprocate the same
  • Consensual/Casual Contact: Officers contact many people in their community either during routine events or during a call for service. During these encounters, you are free to end the contact and/or not speak with the officer if you choose.
  • Detention Stops: In a detention stop the police only need reasonable suspicion to stop/detain an individual. Reasonable suspicion means that there were objectively reasonable circumstances to suspect that the detained individual was involved in or was about to be involved in a crime. If you are being detained, you do not have the legal right to walk or run away or resist in any other manner.


Even if you do not agree with the officer(s) actions:

  • Answer questions if you want to, or request an attorney.
  • Provide any required documents (Driver’s License, insurance, etc.).
  • Sign paperwork not admitting guilt.
  • Ask the officer clarifying questions in a non-argumentative manner.
  • Ask for the officer’s name and badge number if you want.
  • Ask for an incident or case number.

How Can a Personnel Complaint be Made?

A complaint may be made by telephone, email or fax, by mail, in person, and may be anonymous. The complaint may be made at the Police Department or another mutually convenient location. The department is primarily interested in learning of your concerns about police professionalism or need for improvement in our delivery of services.


A personnel complaint may be made by anyone. However if the complainant is under the age of 18 years, we require an adult to accompany the complainant.


A complaint may be made at any time. After normal business hours, a personnel complaint may be made with any supervisor, the on-duty Watch
Commander, or by calling (707) 778-4373.


The complaint is received, reviewed and assigned to an investigator to look into the matter. If the investigator is able to resolve the complaint after examining all the facts and circumstances, you will be notified.

If the complaint requires further review, it will be forwarded to a Police Lieutenant for a formal recommendation, and the Deputy Chief of Police for a final determination. You will be notified in writing as to the disposition of the complaint.

There are four potential dispositions or findings related to civilian complaint investigations which are as follows:

  • Unfounded - When the investigation clearly established that allegation is not true.   Complaints that are determined to be frivolous will fall within the classification of unfounded (Penal Code § 832.8).
  • Exonerated - When the investigation clearly established that the actions of the personnel that formed the basis of the complaint are not in violation of law or agency policy.
  • Not sustained - When the investigation fails to disclose sufficient evidence to clearly prove or disprove the allegation in the complaint to fully exonerate the employee(s).
  • Sustained – When the investigation disclosed sufficient evidence to prove truth of allegation in the complaint by preponderance of evidence.


A complainant does not normally have to testify in any formal hearing. During the investigation you, along with all witnesses, will be questioned
concerning the incident. It is essential to any investigation to ask all pertinent questions and obtain factual information. Once an investigation is
concluded, a disposition will be determined.

Employees of the City of Petaluma have the right to appeal any discipline recommended or imposed. In some cases, these appeals may be heard by the City of Petaluma Personnel Board, which is comprised of three citizens from the community. You may have to testify at such a hearing.

If you have a complaint and you are unsure how to proceed, a telephone call to any on-duty Watch Commander will provide you with the options

Police Motorcyle Officer

The law requires us to have a formal process for filing a complaint about Police Department personnel.

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