"To serve and protect" has become the familiar mantra of law enforcement, but sometimes an officer abuses his position of power. If you have been treated unfairly by an employee of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or you have another complaint you wish to bring to the attention of the federal government, you can contact the FBI directly, or submit a report to the U.S. Attorney's office or the FBI Inspector General.
Types of Complaints
Under federal law, it is illegal for police officers, including FBI agents, to use the "color of law" to deprive a person of his legal rights. This simply means that an officer uses his power to arrest or interrogate someone in a way that amounts to abuse. Common complaints filed against the FBI for this type of violation include use of excessive force, false arrest, fabrication of evidence, deprivation of property, and failure to protect someone from harm. The FBI also receives complaints regarding waste of government resources by an employee or program, and failure to provide whistleblower protection.
Reporting to the FBI
One way that you can file a complaint against the FBI is through the local field office, either in person or by mail or email. Currently, there are 56 offices throughout the country and you can obtain information regarding the nearest one to you through the FBI's website. You should provide as much information to the agency as possible, including your name and the name of the FBI officer or staff member involved in the incident, if you know it. You should also describe the incident in detail, including the date and time it occurred, whether you filed a police report, and the names of any witnesses.
Reporting to U.S. Attorney
You may also send complaints to the U.S. Attorney's office. It is the job of this agency to prosecute federal crimes. The first step is to locate a field office closest to you, which can be accomplished through the Department of Justice website. You may then download the appropriate citizen complaint form, which could be specific to the particular field office. While the forms may vary, you will most likely be asked to supply the same basic information about yourself, the officer and the incident as discussed regarding complaints submitted to the FBI. After completing the document, you may return it in person, or by email, fax or ordinary mail to the address listed on the form.
Reporting to Inspector General
You may also send complaints directly to the federal Inspector General. It is the job of this office to investigate claims of abuse, fraud and waste of resources by Department of Justice employees, including FBI personnel. The agency allows you to submit your complaint electronically through the website, but only if you have no supporting documentation. If you do have supporting documentation, such as a witness statement, you will need to print the complaint form and mail it to the agency at its Washington D.C. office. In addition to describing the incident and naming all of those involved, you will need to specify what other agencies you have notified about the incident.
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation: Civil Rights: Color of Law Abuses
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation: Contact Us
- Office of Inspector General: Hotline
- United States Attorney District of Arizona: Citizen's Complaint
- Office of Inspector General: Contact the OIG Hotline Concerning Violation of Civil Rights or Civil Liberties by a DOJ Employee
Wayne Thomas earned his J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2008. He has experience writing about environmental topics, music and health, as well as legal issues. Since 2011, Thomas has also served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."