FROM TARGETOR TO TARGET
Handling a Serious IA Case Against You
Police & Fire
August 4, 2004 12:00 a.m.
One day you show up for work and are told by a superior that you must
report to the Prosecutor’s Office or AG’s Office regarding a case. You
appear at the designated time unsure of which of your cases they are
preparing for trial. You are brought into a room and made comfortable. As
the “host” begins, your stomach drops to your feet with his or her
first words: “You have the right to remain silent. If you give up the
right to remain silent….”
You can’t hear the rest of this familiar paragraph over the panic
inside your head. The only thing you can hear over the panic are the
screams of “What the 'F' did I do!?” also inside your head.
This article is designed for good officers in bad situations. It is not
designed for those who, out of greed or grudge, tarnish the thousands of
acts of kindness and bravery performed by the law enforcement community
every day. It is not designed for those who engage in criminal or
Good officers do end up as unfair targets as a result of politics, community
pressure, political correctness, vendettas, or sometimes the officer’s
actions were correct but just look bad.
Just as we are not perfect in how we police others, those who police us
are not perfect either. This is not a knock on our IA community either. We have written several previous pieces where we’ve acknowledged
how far the IA process has come and crediting those who serve in such a
delicate and controversial capacity as well as the IA policy itself.
However, there have been examples of outrageous behavior, violations of
officer rights, unnecessarily drawn out investigations, ambush tactics,
and other jaw dropping behavior that is sickening.
Back to the article.
If you find yourself in a situation as we described above, you first
move is to shut up!
Do not talk, invoke every right, ask for an attorney, request your
delegate, ask for an aspirin, but shut up.
You are in over your head, and you need to realize that from the onset.
When Miranda is read or a job-threatening investigation is underway, you
need to bring in help from the outside. Preparing a cute defense with your
digital camera, excerpts from your rules and regulations, citations from
cases and statutes, all wrapped up in a masterpiece submission are all
fine and well for when you back the company car into a fence but not
when the stakes are this high.
This initial interview (or interrogation) is where cases and careers are won and
lost. Shut up and get out!
Obviously, you should be as polite and as cordial as possible in all
your dealings with those running the investigation. You don’t want to
make it personal.
After you make your “escape,” you next move is to contact an
attorney. Not your buddy, not your old academy friend, not a trusted
superior, you need to contact an attorney.
Do not choose the guy who did you closing, do not choose the guy who
will give you a bust, and do not choose the guy with whom you grew up.
Every county has a local, former Prosecutor’s Office or AG lawyer who
is well-respected and known for -being able to make some calls and learn
what the investigation is about. This attorney might be good in the
beginning, but if the case is going to the mat, you want the guy who wins.
You want the pit bull.
The problem with the first one is that he may be hesitant in doing
anything that may jeopardize his or her relationship with the investigating
Your attorney’s only goal should be to clear your innocent name by
all means possible!
Now that you’ve taken care of your legal interests, you need to take
care of yourself. High-profile IA investigations can take a massive toll
on officers. Whether you think you need it or not, you need to get
counseling. If nothing else, it will help keep you grounded during the
We could drag this article on, but we’ve covered the most important
part; the beginning. After you have secured an attorney, you should be
following his or her advice, not ours.
The NJLawman.com website has also created a page devoted to Internal
Affairs resources. To view the page, click
us your comments on
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shorten, or decline any submission.
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January 26, 2006
Having worked in IA at the
Pros. Office, and now working in major crimes, this article is on point!
keep up the great work!
October 26, 2004
This article is point in case
for me. I was the target of an IA, and my department attempted to take it
criminal. Let them build their case, don't help them.
I went through the ringer.
Demoted, suspended, terminated then reinstated. Now, since my dept appealed
the Supreme Court ruling, I'm waiting for the Appellate Court to make its
ruling. Get a lawyer. "He who defends himself has a fool for a lawyer"!
October 22, 2004
Problem is that most guys want to trust their
dept. They don't believe that someone from inside law enforcement would
actively attempt to have them fired or charged. The first step to
surviving is to have it in your contract that your PBA rep is notified
by the dept. prior to a member being questioned. You then have an
objective person in the room who is not afraid for his job. It doesn't
hurt any invest to have an extra body in the room for questioning.
August 23, 2004
This Article is right to
the point and a agree 100% it. I am a police officer in a large
suburban/urbanizing dept. in NJ. I am also a PBA rep. and we see to many
officers blind sided by there own dept. and a core the political motivated
prosecutors office. There should be more legislation in the state of NJ
and nationally to protect officers rights in these types of situations.
the truth is most officers will be involved in something like this during
there career, and if mistakes are made the officers live could be changed
as fast a s a bullet out of a criminals gun.
EFFORT NEEDED TO STOP
June 9, 2004 12:00 a.m..
In recent weeks we’ve noticed a
disturbing trend of arrests for impersonating a police officer. Most of
these incidents take place on motor vehicle stops. Upon being stopped,
offenders produce a badge which they purchased somewhere, often from the
Internet or a police supply store that doesn’t ask for department
letterhead as required by New Jersey law.
The incidents where arrests are made
usually take place when the officer effecting the stop asks to see an
agency identification in addition to the badge. The problem is, many of us
never bother to do this.
Why we Don't Check Further
Simply, we are not thorough enough in
confirming a stopped officer’s identity because we don't want to offend
a fellow officer. While it is commendable that we look out for each other
like this, we also do a disservice to ourselves. Unscrupulous drivers are
portraying themselves as police officers and getting away with it.
Sometimes we don’t make enough effort
out of complacency. The officer effecting the stop wants to set up again
and rushes too quickly through the interview.
How to Change it
It should become the practice of all
off-duty officers being stopped to identify themselves by agency badge and
agency identification. Additionally, they should be prepared to answer
some basic questions and even provide the telephone number to their agency
Again, the goal of this is not to
inconvenience anyone. It is to identify those falsely and criminally
claiming to be law enforcement officers.
If a stopped officer doesn’t volunteer
the appropriate credentials, it is up to the stopping officer to obtain
both forms of identification and follow up with questions and or a phone
call if needed.
In cases where a stopped officer doesn’t
have one or both forms of their identification, the stopping officer
should be making a call to his or her department for identity
The most important part of all of this is
for the officer being stopped not to catch an attitude. Professional
courtesy begins with the officer being stopped, not with the officer
making the stop.
Confirming a stopped officer's identity
is especially important in today's world with homeland security
To help get the word out, please copy and
email this report to every officer in your address book.