Can you explain how an Internal Investigation works? What would trigger IA and what happens when a cop is ‘on the radar’?
Internal Affairs is supposed to be how a police department polices itself. IA investigates complaints against police officers. These complaints can come from outside of the department (citizen) or from within (supervisor, fellow officer). The assumption should always be innocent until proven guilty but the opposite is often applied.
When IA receives a complaint, it is their job to establish whether or not the complaint is valid and if there is any wrong doing on the part of the officer in question. Did the officer violate the law or perhaps violate a departmental order?
Like any other investigation, witnesses will need to be contacted and interviewed as well as the officer involved. Normally, you want to talk to everyone else before confronting the officer, so that you have an idea of the direction you are going to take with them. Interviewing everyone else first may establish up front that there is no crime or violation. In my opinion, a good IA investigator will give the officer notice that he is being investigated well before he is interviewed. However, if the complaint is major and could involve criminal prosecution, it would be better to hold off until prepared to interview the officer.
Where the suspicion of criminal activity exists, the officer is normally advised of his rights prior to any questioning. In many departments, although you have the right to silence, the officer is advised that if he exercises that right, he will be terminated. It is a condition of his employment to cooperate in such investigations. The officer will normally have his association representative and his attorney present at the interview. The rep is there to protect the officer’s rights as specified in the contract agreement between the Police Officer’s Association and the city. The attorney is there to protect the officer’s civil rights in the event of criminal action.
The IA investigator always sets the tone of the interview and it is apparent early on which direction it is going to go. I have been in IA’s where it was very relaxed and the investigator had already established my innocence and I have been in those where it was clear from the get go, a witch hunt was under way. Either way, you gotta ride it out.
When an officer is on their radar, IA will be relentless about going after them for even the most minor of infractions. No one I know wearing a badge is perfect and mistakes are going to be made. With the normal guy/gal, they are verbally corrected with a supervisor and sometimes even documented on a Sergeant’s log. If IA is after a guy they’ll take that Sergeant’s log and turn it into a formal departmental complaint. If IA is after a guy, they will advise all supervisor’s that any infractions witnessed or reported regarding the officer be documented and forwarded to IA for review. To be under that microscope is a very uncomfortable place to live.
The bottom line is that if they truly want you, they will find a way to eventually get you. I have seen it done to officer’s and have personally lived through the experience. I have seen good officer’s careers ruined by these guys as well as bad officers get cut from the herd. Unfortunately, some IA investigators love what they do or see IA as an opportunity to make their bones and get promoted. “See, I’m not afraid to go after a fellow officer.” Some are so good at it, they even get hand selected to handle special or sensitive cases involving supervisors. The rank and file for the most part understands the need for this unit but has little respect for the cops that work it, especially those that specifically apply for it.
Have you ever been under the microscope? How did you handle it?
Thank you, Officer Friendly!
Remember if you have a question please email me @ Karin@KarinTabke.com