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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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
Another problem is the inconsistency in how some criminal accusations are
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
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.
"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."
"PBA 314 represents the Monmouth County Sheriff's Officers and has
had its share of bouts with IA. None, of which are good.
the years IA has set a pattern of zealously attempting to discipline
officers while ignoring the conduct of supervisors.
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
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.
suspension was later reduced at arbitration.
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.
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.
-President PBA #314
"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."