OPS Division Commander – Lieutenant Bruce Balchunas
Additional Division Staff:
- Detective Joe Pena
- Deputy Susan Hernandez
To assist the Sheriff’s Office in maintaining the trust of the public by conducting administrative investigations regarding: allegations of employee misconduct, critical incidents, such as; officer-involved shootings, pursuits resulting in serious injury, or any incident resulting in serious injury or death of a person, regardless of any allegations of misconduct. The Office of Professional Standards (OPS) also conducts proactive measures to ensure employee(s) are conforming to set standards by conducting periodic inspections and reviews.
- Protection of the Public
- Protection of the Employee
- Protection of the Sheriff’s Office
The quality of the relationship between the community and the Galveston County Sheriff's Office, determines the level of cooperation and support required for effective and equitable law enforcement.
Personnel commendations and complaints assist the Sheriff's Office in evaluating the quality of service we provide to the citizens of Galveston County.
Historically, it has been found that the majority of complaints against law enforcement officers are due to a lack of information regarding their duties and how they are entitled to carry them out.
Additionally, many times as citizens, you recognize when an individual goes above and beyond the call of duty. These individuals also need to be properly recognized for their efforts.
This website is designed to clarify some of the rights that you as a citizen have if you want to commend or make a legitimate complaint against a Sheriff's Office employee.
Your Sheriff's Office acknowledges its responsibility by establishing a system of commendation, complaint and disciplinary procedures. These procedures will not only subject the employee to disciplinary action when improper conduct is evident, but will also protect the employee when they properly exercise their duties.
Together, we can make a difference. I am committed to providing the highest quality of law enforcement service to the citizens of Galveston County.
Galveston County Sheriff
Who may register a complaint?
A complaint may be made by any citizen, prisoner or Sheriff’s Office member.
How do I initiate a complaint against an employee?
Complaints can be made by telephone, letter or in person. Complaints can be filed 24 hours a day with the on-duty supervisor or during regular business hours with the Office of Professional Standards. All complaints including anonymous complaints will be accepted.
If I am under 18 years old, do I have a right to file a complaint?
Yes. However, we recommend a parent, legal guardian or responsible adult be present with you.
Must I give my name to file a complaint?
No. However, an anonymous complaint can be very difficult to investigate. During the course of the investigation, additional information may be required from you, to ensure a successful conclusion.
Will the employee know that I have made a complaint?
Yes. The employee will be advised of the allegations made against him or her. If known, the identity of the complainant will also be made available to the employee.
Who is responsible for investigating the complaint?
Depending upon the nature of the allegation, the complaint can either be investigated by a Sheriff’s Office supervisor or directly by the Office of Professional Standards.
What will happen to the employee?
If the investigation indicates misconduct, the employee will be disciplined according to the seriousness of the policy violation. Disciplinary actions can range from verbal counseling to suspension, or in extreme cases, termination. If the allegation is criminal in nature, the case will be presented for prosecution.
Need I be concerned about possible retaliation for making a complaint?
ABSOLUTELY NOT! It is essential that public confidence be maintained, which enhances the ability of the Sheriff’s Office to investigate and properly handle complaints against its members.
How long will the investigation take?
Minor complaints are often handled immediately. As a general rule, an investigation regarding a serious allegation should be concluded in 45 days, unless circumstances necessitate additional time.
Will I be notified of the results of the investigation?
Yes, if you have identified yourself, you will be informed in writing of the case disposition.
Who may recommend a commendation?
Just as in the complaint process, a commendation for a job well done can be made by any citizen, prisoner or Sheriff’s Office Member.
How do I initiate a commendation for an employee?
Commendations can be made by telephone, letter, or in person. Commendations can be filed 24 hours a day with an on-duty supervisor or during regular business hours with the Office of Professional Standards.
What will happen to my commendation recommendation?
Your recommendation will be forwarded to the Sheriff’s Office Awards Board. The Board will determine the type of award to be given based on the circumstances. Minor commendations may be handled directly by the supervisor either verbally or considered when completing the employee’s performance evaluation.
Will I be notified of the results of my commendation recommendation?
Yes. On minor commendations you will most likely be advised by the supervisor of the type of action that will be taken. On commendations of a greater nature, you will be notified in writing of the results of the recommendation and the ceremonies that may take place, so that you may attend if you so desire..
Things to remember . . .
The quality of relations between citizens and their law enforcement agency depends not only on reporting misconduct, but also on acknowledging a job well done.
Please note the following:
The Office of Professional Standards (OPS) does not investigate citizen complaints concerning traffic violations or criminal charges when a person’s guilt or innocence is the issue in question.
OPS will conduct a preliminary review of anonymous and third party complaints, but will only pursue an investigation if there is evidence to validate the allegation.
OPS does not normally conduct administrative or criminal investigative regarding employee(s) of other law enforcement agency.
It is recommended that you attempt to resolve your complaint by contacting the accused employee’s immediate supervisor, as soon as possible following the event.
How to File a Complaint
If the issue is not resolved by the supervisor and you opt to pursue a formal complaint, you may request a complaint packet from the supervisor. If feasible, the supervisor can provide you with a complaint packet or may direct you to contact OPS at either of the following phone number's 409-770-5244 or 409-766-2357 during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, excluding County holidays. If you call after hours, please leave a message to include the nature of your complaint, your name and return phone number, and the name of the accused employee(s). Your call will be returned as soon as possible. You also have the option of coming to the sheriff’s office during regular business hours (as stated above) to file your complaint. Either way, you will be provided with a complaint packet and once your completed packet is returned to OPS, an investigation will be initiated. Please note that your complaint packet is a sworn statement and treated as such.
As stated in the Government Local, Section 614.022, a peace officer (sheriff’s office employee) who is accused of misconduct and is subjected to administrative discipline from such, the accused employee must receive a signed written complaint..
All complaints are taken seriously and if appropriate; access to the complainant’s medical records may be request, physical evidence may be gathered, and photographs taken. Furthermore, the complainant may be requested to submit to a polygraph examination. The submission to a polygraph examination is strictly voluntary. However, state law mandates that only if the complainant takes and passes a polygraph examination can an accused peace officer (deputy) then be ordered to take a polygraph examination.
Such investigations are normally completed within forty five days and you will be notified in writing of the outcome of the investigation, but not the associated discipline against said employee.
Once the investigation is complete, the case is forwarded to the Chief Deputy for review and if the allegation is found to be true, the case is provided to the accused employee's Bureau Commander for review. The Bureau Commander will afford the accused employee due process and make a recommendation for discipline, if appropriate. The case will subsequently be presented to an Administrative Action Review Disciplinary Committee for a disciplinary recommendation. The next step in the process is for the sheriff to review the case and to either agree or disagree with the Administrative Action Review Committee’s recommendation. The sheriff normally agrees with the committee’s recommendations. Per policy, the accused employee has the right to submit a written appeal to the sheriff and if the sheriff rejects said appeal, the employee has the right to appeal the disciplinary recommendation to the County Grievance Panel.