Frequently Asked Questions

For these FAQs in different languages click on the links below:


What is the Cambridge Police & Advisory Board?

The Police Review & Advisory Board is an independent civilian oversight agency that hears complaints and reviews policies, practices, and procedures of the Cambridge Police Department, making recommendations to the Police Commissioner, City Manager, and City Council. The Board was created by city ordinance to provide timely, fair, and impartial investigations of complaints brought by individuals against police officers. Police officers also have the right to file complaints with the Board against the Cambridge Police Department.

Why was the Police Review & Advisory Board created?

The Police Review & Advisory Board was established by Cambridge City Ordinance in 1984 to:
• Provide for citizen participation in reviewing Police Department policies, practices, and procedures;
• Provide a prompt, impartial and fair investigation of complaints brought by individuals against members of the Cambridge Police Department; and
• Develop programs and strategies to promote positive police/community relations and to provide opportunities for expanded discussions, improved understanding, and innovative ways of resolving differences.

Who are the members of the Police Review & Advisory Board?

The Police Review & Advisory Board consists of five civilian residents of Cambridge who are representative the racial composition, social composition, and economic composition of the city:

  • Ann Coyne, Chair
  • Laurance Kimbrough
  • Lucy Murray-Brown
  • Beverly C. Sealey
  • Ted Robitaille   

  • How does someone submit a complaint?

    Complaints may be filed with the staff of the Police Review & Advisory Board in person, by letter, or by telephone. In all cases, everyone making a complaint is required to provide signed statement describing what happened and the specific complaint. Complaints must be filed within 60 days of the incident.

    Complaint Form (PDF)

    What happens once a complaint is filed?

    The process begins with a complaint being filed with the Police Review & Advisory Board. The Board employs its own staff, which works with the Professional Standards Unit of the Police Department to investigate all complaints. The Board then reviews the investigative report from the staff, and either orders an investigation or dismisses the complaint. An investigation includes interviews with both the complainant and police officer(s) and other relevant individuals. After a full investigation is completed, the Board may dismiss the complaint, mediate, or order a hearing. Following a hearing, the Board will render a final decision. If the Board finds that there was a violation of policy or procedures, it will make a recommendation to the City Manager and the Police Commissioner about what action(s) should be taken.

    Do I need an attorney?

    No, an attorney is not necessary.

    What types of complaints does the Police Review & Advisory Board investigate?

    • Excessive use of force
    • Use of discourteous or demeaning language
    • Improper stop, arrest, search and seizure
    • Inadequate investigation or improper police reports
    • Discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, sex, religion, disability, or national origin or any other criteria defined in federal and state guidelines.
    • Harassment
    • Improper police procedures
    • Improper traffic citation or towing of a car by the police

    If you are stopped by the police...

    The Cambridge Police Department has the responsibility of enforcing the laws and protecting public safely – and sometimes dealing with dangerous or violent people. It is quite possible that the officer who comes into contact with you does not know you personally. Consequently, she or he must approach you with caution to ensure everyone's safety. You are expected to treat a police officer in the same manner the officer is expected to treat you: with courtesy and respect. Police officers have the authority to conduct a limited search of you or your vehicle, if reasonable suspicion exists. You should remain calm and follow the instructions of the officer. If you are in a car and see flashing blue lights on a police car, you should

    • Slow down
    • Activate your turn signal indicating you are going to comply and
    • Pull over as soon as you feel it is safe, put of the way of traffic if possible. If questioned, politely explain to the officer why you did not stop immediately if that is the case.
    • You should not argue with, challenge, threaten, ignore, or be offensive to the officer.
    • Under no circumstances should you provide the officer with false information.

    Most of the problems you may encounter with the police can be avoided. Remember, they have a right to stop and question you based on probable cause. If you are stopped, you should collect your thoughts and remain calm. Whether or not you are arrested may just depend on how calm and prepared you are at this time.

    There are factors that the police may take into consideration when observing you. Every situation is different and the officer may consider the following factors:

    • If you are running and a crime has recently been reported in the area.
    • If you are "hanging around" with people currently under police investigation.
    • If you are near an area where a crime has just been reported and may have witnessed or participated in the crime.
    • If you are in an area which the police believe to be abandoned or unoccupied, or are present on public or commercial property outside of appropriate norms.
    • If you are acting in a manner which appears to be suspicious.
    • If the police believe you are in possession of stolen property.
    • If stopped while walking or driving your car, you refuse to answer police questions, or give false, evasive or contradictory information.
    • If you match the description of a suspect given to the police.
    • If you use derogatory or offensive language.

    While these things are taken into consideration when questioning you, the police must respect your right to refuse to answer questions that sound accusatory.


    This information is based on guidelines established by the National Black Police Association.