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Police Review & Advisory Board

The Police Review & Advisory Board provides a prompt, impartial and fair investigation of complaints brought by individuals against members of the Cambridge Police Department. 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.

Tips and FAQs

What type of complaints can be filed?

  • 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

What happens after a complaint is made?

Once a complaint is filed, Board staff will work with the Professional Standards Unit of the Cambridge Police Department to investigate all complaints. An investigation includes interviews with both the complainant and involved police officer(s), as well as any other relevant individuals, and reviewing police reports, witness statements, and other pertinent information. The staff submits its investigative report to the Board, which reviews the report, and may accept the report or order additional investigation into the complaint. After the investigation process is completed, the Board will deliberate and make a determination whether or not there was a violation of policy or procedures, or whether it is inconclusive.

Depending on the finding, any party to the complaint may request that the Board order a hearing, which is done at the discretion of the Board based on the evidence the Board has received. If a hearing is held, the Board will render a final decision. In addition, even if the Board finds that there was no violation of policy or procedures, it may make recommendations to the City Manager and the Police Commissioner about changes that can be made to avoid similar situations in the future

Do I need a lawyer to file a complaint?

No, an attorney is not necessary.

Why was the Police Review and 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 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. View the current membership of the Police Review & Advisory Board on the Open Meeting Portal.


What should I do if I am stopped by a police officer?

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.
Police officers have the authority to conduct a limited search of you or your vehicle, if reasonable suspicion exists. 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.

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.


What behaviors could police officers find suspicious?

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

Last Updated: 3/28/2017 | Provide feedback on this page

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