Cuff 'em: Policy, Procedure and the Police Auditor

As handcuffing by cops grows in prevalence, George Hostetter looks at the Fresno Police Auditor’s complicated role.


“Know what I do if I were you?” I said. “I’d go to the police auditor.”


“The police auditor?”

“Yeah. The police auditor has an office at City Hall. It’s on the third floor. The City Council approved the police auditor just for people in your situation.”

That bit about a council’s legislative action long ago hit our conversation with a clang. But Maria didn’t flinch. I regained my focus.

“It’s that simple,” I said. “Find the police auditor. Tell him your story. No guarantees what’ll happen, but it’s a start. At least you’ll be doing something, because right now you’re just complaining to a nobody.”

Now, I knew all about the Police Department’s citizen complaint process. And I knew that the police auditor’s primary function is as an analyst of police procedure, not a collector of Joe Everyman’s gripes.

But two other thoughts went through my mind.

First, Maria wanted a concise, easy-to-understand answer to that age-old question: How do I penetrate the System?

It just didn’t seem fair to tell her to file a complaint by going to police headquarters or online. Both, obviously, are valid ways to file a complaint. And, to tell you the truth, I have no idea whether either method is simple or complicated.

I sensed Maria wanted something different, something more human. What could be more American than “Got a complaint? Go to City Hall.”

Second, what good is the institution of Office of Independent Review/Police Auditor if the thing is so darn fragile and secretive and elitist that it can’t spare a few minutes to take the name, address, phone number of someone like Maria and, amid the calming atmosphere of City Hall, tell her the proper way to file a formal complaint against the police?

So, I said to Maria: “Got to City Hall. They have to help you. That’s their job.”

Maria and I shook hands. I headed to my pickup. I don’t know what became of her.

I thought to myself:

Handcuffs. What is Police Department policy for those things?

Police auditor. I don’t recall him ever taking a look at handcuff policy in his quarterly or annual reports.

Office of Independent Review. Did I send Maria on a wild goose chase?

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