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Internal Affairs, 2003

 

The State Of IA Today

 

November, 2003 Editorial

 

   Television shows depict the internal affairs function as the arch enemy of every street cop. Not only do they infer that line officers detest the entire concept of internal affairs, but they portray internal affairs officers as an evil, almost corrupt bunch that will do almost anything to burn another officer.

 

   What is our perception of the Internal Affairs function in 2003?

 

   To fully examine where it is today, it’s important to look back to where it was yesterday.

 

 

 

   Ten or fifteen years ago your IA unit might have involved some lieutenant or above running around

with yellow pad in hand and pencil in ear. He would ambush you at the time clock or on your meal break and begin asking you questions about an investigation into your conduct of which you were not even aware. You would have no time to prepare, read your report, review the allegations made against you or formulate your responses to make sure that you didn’t hastily say something that could hurt you.

 

   Often, you would never learn of the outcome of the investigation. While normally no news is good news, sometimes, unbeknownst to you, a reprimand quietly made its way into your personnel file.

 

   Suspensions without due process, wrongful terminations, no appeal processes, and squirrelly tactics were all part of the IA process in some agencies, and there was little recourse for the line officer.

 

   Today, we have an eighty-seven page policy covering almost every conceivable aspect of an internal affairs investigation. It address everything from demeanor complaints to full-blown corruption. It spells out exactly when an officer can be subjected to an immediate suspension, how investigations should be conducted, and how and from whom complaints should be accepted. Most importantly, it contains many protections for the accused officer.

 

   Every law enforcement officer needs to be intimately familiar with the contents of the IA policy. At one time or another, every single one of us will face an internal affairs investigation. The IA policy sets the rules and parameters. A targeted officer cannot benefit from the protections of the policy if he or she does not know the policy.

 

Did you know?

You may record any interviews to which you are subjected? “If the subject officer wishes to make a recording of the interview, he or she may do so, and a copy of the recording shall be made available to the department upon request, at the agency's expense.” Page 43.

 

You must be informed of an internal affairs complaint against you. “The agency must notify an officer in writing that a complaint has been made against him, and that an investigation will begin, unless this notification would interfere with the investigation.” Page 18.

 

You must be notified of the results of all internal affairs complaints against you. “Upon final disposition of the complaint, in cases where the officer was not notified of the outcome through some written form of discipline, the officer shall be notified of the outcome of the case through a written internal department communication.” Page 24.

 

From the date where your agency has enough information to charge you, they have 45 days to file the charges. “Under N.J.S.A.40A:14-147, disciplinary charges alleging a violation of the agency’s rules and regulations must be filed within 45 days of the date the person filing the charge obtained sufficient information to file the charge. This “45 day rule” does not apply to disciplinary charges alleging officer misconduct or incapacity.” Page 20.

 

There is a form in the IA policy called the Garrity Warning. You may ask to have this form signed by both you and the interviewer if faced with criminal charges. It prevents your statement from being used against you in a criminal case. (Appendix J)

 

   In most departments, the Internal Affairs Unit is no longer the evil empire. The function has been spread around so much that it is no longer a select few doing the leg work. Even line supervisors participate in the IA function in the form of investigations of minor complaints against subordinates.

 

   A high-ranking Assistant Prosecutor in charge of IA for one county provided a great quote. He said, “I have the best job in the world. My job is to clear good cops of false charges.” He then went on to say that only about 3% of his cases result in charges and those usually involve serious misconduct and / or corruption.

 

   Not everything is rosy though.

 

   The Internal Affairs function is only as good as the officers assigned to it. We still see tactics reminiscent of the old days. Immediate suspensions without due process, officers not being notified of investigations against them (when warranted) and dispositions, and inconsistent punishments are probably the three most common areas of violation. The difference now is that the Internal Affairs Policy can be used not only to discipline an officer but to protect the officer as well.

 

   The biggest complaint though has to be unreasonably drawn-out and delayed investigations. There is no bigger morale killer than when an officer is forced to endure a unnecessarily protracted investigation into his or her handling of an incident. These usually occur for one of two reasons.

 

   First, IA’s are sometimes delayed to pander to interest groups. Rather than just clearing an officer (if innocent), we see investigations that last for months. The incident might involve nothing more than a ten-minute motor encounter during a motor vehicle stop, but because some group got involved, the strategy is to let it drag on until the group loses interest. Unfortunately, the officer must endure having his or her name dragged through the mud in the press. Then, when the disposition is reached it is quietly closed, but that part and the declaring of the target officer’s innocence rarely makes it to the media.

 

   The second reason for delays comes from nothing more than procrastination on the part of the investigator. This is completely unacceptable.

 

   Even if a sustained disposition is reached, officers would rather it be done expeditiously so they can take their medicine or prepare their defense.

 

   Another problem is the inconsistency in how some criminal accusations are handled.

 

   Sometimes when an officer receives a green sheet, the case is sent to municipal court for a probable cause hearing. Other times it is sent to Grand Jury. As of now, there is no rule for how such cases are to be handled. It seems to be completely at the discretion of those handling the criminal case.

 

   Finally, officers are not permitted to view the contents of their own IA file. A high ranking executive at the Police Training Commission explained to us that the reason for this was to prevent these files from being accessible to defense attorneys. According to this source, if the file is kept truly confidential in the department, it is not a public record, and it may not be obtained to be used in a case involving the officer. Still, this rule does seem somewhat Orwellian.

 

   IA is a fact of life. It is necessary for us just as referees are necessary in a football game. While some strides have been made to protect officer’s rights, there is still room for improvement.  Please use the scroll box on the top of this page to share you thoughts.

 

NJLawman.com

 

 

Your View

November 26, 2003

       "I don't think that the Sheriff is right to unarmed c/o when the are not on duty.  As a former c/o I have encountered inmates in places like shopping centers. and it is not a good feeling when the know who you are and you are with your family, and have to protect them."

 

          -Anonymous

 

 

November 25, 2003

       "PBA 314 represents the Monmouth County Sheriff's Officers and has had its share of bouts with IA.  None, of which are good.

 

Over the years IA has set a pattern of zealously attempting to discipline officers while ignoring the conduct of supervisors. 

 

On of the best examples of this is the tale of two guns. Several years ago a supervisor left a loaded firearm in a vehicle.  It was discovered the next day by an officer.  A report was generated but the supervisor never was disciplined.  Fast forward a year ago an officer committed the same infraction. However, in this case, IA investigated, charged him, and he was given a 30 DAY SUSPENSION.  The case is pending an ALJ decision.

 

In another case a supervisor had his unsecured weapon STOLEN from his house.  No DISCIPLINE! A PBA Union Officer was cleaning his weapon in the locker room and they gave him a 5 day suspension.

 

This suspension was later reduced at arbitration. 

 

Our recourse over the past 3 years has been to take IA to task. In those years we have NEVER lost to them in Arbitration.  IA has attempted to become an intimidating arm of the Administration.  Over the years the members have to endure the attempted cover-up of sexual harassment, freedom of speech rights assailed, and disparaging treatment. 

 

After all this we thought things would change.  Most recently IA has proven that wrong again with more cases down the road to win.  We see the necessity to keep fighting at arbitration, PERC, and the ALJ.  In the not so distance future we feel it may be necessary to take further Court action.

 

          -Benevolently yours,

          -Joe Tuohy

          -President PBA #314

 

November 10, 2003

       "Our County Corrections IA Unit is made up of political favors the County Exec. owed people in return for money, work, or other related endeavors. There is but one out of a full staff of Investigators that is permanent- the rest provisionally appointed. Most have limited time on the job and most look to hurt the Correction Officer. If a test and proper staffing occur in this position like it is supposed to instead of the County Politics taking over, Officers may be respected more, favored, and more accepting of this unit."

 

          -Anonymous

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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