A police officer may face criminal charges for engaging in misconduct while on duty. An officer can ALSO be held accountable by the Philadelphia Police Department for violating Department policy. The criminal and administrative processes are completely different in nature, though they may evaluate the same officer misconduct. The findings of a criminal trial should not impact the Department’s prosecution of officer misconduct.

Below we describe the differences in criminal versus administrative prosecutions:

Criminal Proceeding

The District Attorney’s (DA) office pursues criminal justice on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to enforce the state’s criminal code.

  • The DAO’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigates and files charges if an officer’s conduct violates criminal law.
  • The prosecutors working in the SIU are Assistant District Attorneys who specialize in public corruption.
  • For criminal prosecutions of police officers, the SIU works with the Philadelphia Police Department to investigate the officer’s conduct.
  • If the SIU finds probable cause that the officer committed a crime, the ADA from SIU will file criminal charges against the officer in court.

The charges may be brought to trial in the First Judicial District Courts before an independently elected judge.

  • The ADA must prove the officer is guilty of the criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • The outcome of a criminal prosecution can be a Dismissal or Withdrawal, Diversion, a Guilty verdict, a Guilty plea, or an Acquittal (Not Guilty verdict).
  • Any of these outcomes (except an acquittal), may be appealed in court.

Click here to access more information about the Special Investigations Unit of the District Attorney’s Office

You can read more information here about the criminal justice process generally

If found not guilty, the officer would still face administrative prosecution for the right to return to work.


Administrative Proceedings

The Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) enforces PPD’s employee disciplinary code.

  • PPD’s Internal Affairs Division (IAD) investigates and recommends disciplinary charges if an officer’s conduct violates the PPD disciplinary code.
  • The IAD investigators are sworn police officers who specialize in misconduct investigations.

For administrative misconduct cases, the officer’s conduct is investigated by IAD.

  • If IAD finds that the officer engaged in misconduct, the Department Advocate, who is also a sworn police officer, files disciplinary charges against the officer who engaged in misconduct.

The charges are heard before the Police Board of Inquiry, which is a panel, composed of two PPD officers and a member of the public (CPOC), who make recommendations to the Police Commissioner.

  • The disciplinary charges against the officer must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence.
  • The outcome of sustained charges in an administrative prosecution could result in dismissal, suspension, reprimand and training and counselling.
  • An officer who faces discipline may file a grievance to appeal the discipline imposed by the Police Commissioner.
  • The sustained charges in an administrative prosecution could result in dismissal, suspension, reprimand and/or training and counselling.

If you’d like to learn more about administrative prosecutions and PBI hearings, please reference the following guides from CPOC: