THE POLICE INTERNAL AFFAIRS SECTION

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1.0 Executive summary

The American Civil Liberties Union often do receive concerns and complaints concerning the local affairs and practices of the police from citizens who are not ready to file complaints, from others who have filed the complaints but they received no any response and also from the police officers who feel they were mistreated in an unfair way. Having a close look at the agencies and the records, it is evident that the entire process of citizens’ complaints against the internal affairs department in New Jersey is completely broken. In the state, the local departments are responsible for violating the law through denying the people a fair review to their complaints.  Majority of the police from New Jersey often violate the state law as they fail to follow the internal affairs statutory requirements. Most of the agencies hardly offer any resources or training that is critical to maintain an ethical and formal internal affairs facet which complies with the state laws. In most cases, tracking of the internal affairs investigations, complaints and resolutions is as a result of inaccurate data which stems from confusion and inattention on how to record and track cases. This report hence does make some recommendations which if adopted will maintain as well as put back the internal affairs section back on its robust course. It will describe the structure, procedures as well as the practices of the internal affairs and the final findings.

2.0 Introduction

The internal affairs section or unit is the branch in the police department which investigates and receives complaints on violation of standards and rules as well as the policies on the officers (George & Christopher, 2007, pp. 154). Controlling of the police department is a major internal matter in which the administrators ought to treat as the major top priority. The society ought to be fully confident that the entire police department has effectual procedures which will ensure that the officers do protect the citizens’ rights. However, the department complaints processes and procedures are usually designed in a way that discourages the citizens. Most people who have complaints are not fully certain that the police department will go ahead and take a meaningful action.

Depending on how the department is organized, even a single officer or the entire section is in a position to serve in the internal affairs unit which receives as well as investigates core complaints against the officers. Officers charged with any misconduct are liable to face a criminal prosecution or a disciplinary action which can lead to dismissal, suspension or resignation. Officers in the internal affairs department are responsible of investigating complaints against their fellow officers. Most of the dramatic investigations conducted by the internal affairs unit are drug dealing, sexual harassment, murder cases, and violations of the departmental policies as well as misusing force.

The internal affairs section has to receive sufficient resources in order to carry out their mission. (George & Christopher, 2006 pp. 228).  When such controversial issues happen, the administrators fail to get rational information in order to correct problems. The internal investigators do find their work quite stressful since their status does prevent them from having close relationships with other officers and problems mostly in the small departments become so severe.

Any impartial complaint procedure and process which allow the citizens to go ahead and air their grievances on police conduct and investigate complaints will enhance law in New Jersey. Effectual police executives do use the information from the complaints in order to correct misbehavior or poor performance and hence put in place effective systems which will prevent future catastrophes. Through improving the policies and practices of the police, effective internal affairs unit can hence head off costly litigation as well as free resources for the priorities of the police. Each complaint ought to be handled with a lot of sensitivity and professionalism in order to result to a thorough as well as a fair investigation. The investigators ought to keep the complainants fully informed on the progress of the entire investigation and the complainants should be in a position to feel that their worries and concerns were fully addressed and if appropriate the officers were held fully accountable for their acts. This is the only way to maintain public trust.

In the internal affairs unit and model, the police are allowed to investigate themselves and also use an internal system of disciplining (Larry, 2009, pp. 296).  This is completely ineffective as citizens are hence discouraged from complaining and also reporting grave issues. The police are seen as being ineffective as well as the approach system in discouraging misconduct and corruption.

3.0 Discussion

3.1 Structure and history of the New Jersey state police

The New Jersey police system commenced in 1921 with a major mission to furnish enough police protection to all the inhabitants of the rural sections (Law enforcement in New Jersey, 2010). This division got organized in a paramilitary fashion by the superintendent on grounds of a chain of command. Presently, the state police is vast and complex organization with diverse roles that comprise on the entire police services spectrum. The legislature has expanded its roles beyond its purpose.  The division is organized in eight sections. There is the administration, the division staff, internal affairs investigations, EEO and training investigations, technical and special services section, identification and records section, intelligence section, emergency management section, investigations section and the field services section.

In recognition of the importance behind having an immense internal affair (IA), in the year 1991 the attorney general issued an Internal Affairs Policy and Procedures (IAPP) which outlined the effective practices of the Internal Affairs operations. The statute required the local, county as well as the specialized police departments to adopt the IA practices that are fully consistent with IAPP. It also does require each police agency, regardless of the size to come up with an Internal Affairs function. It comprises of procedures that entails acceptance, disposition and investigation in order to maintain the public confidence.

3.2 The Present State of internal Affairs

Despite requirements from the law, most departments have not met the basic requirements of handling complaints. Most of the cases and complaints of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) which does involve the Internal Affairs practices reveal on the inadequacy of the present system. Most of the known cases have focused on racial profiling and have led to alienation of the communities. Since police accountability is a major crucial issue, the ACLU-NJ has conducted a comprehensive analysis in New Jersey. The report has revealed that the Internal Affairs unit has failed in fulfilling its mission and is in major crisis. Though the police agencies do have immense internal affairs unit, others fall short of it.

3.3 Responsibilities and duties of the Internal Affairs unit

The main purpose of the internal affairs unit entails establishing of a mechanism in which there will be receipt, resolution as well as investigation of complaints (Michael, 2000, pp. 74).  Its main goal is to make sure that integrity of the entire department is highly maintained through an internal discipline system where justice and fairness are assured by impartial and objective review and investigation. The Internal affairs unit is also responsible of reviewing and investigating any allegation concerning the misconduct of an employee which reveals potential violation of the regulations and rules of the agency and which shows that the employee is unwilling, unable and unfit to perform their duties. The internal affairs investigations ought to be considered as crucial to the entire agency just as any criminal investigation.

3.4 Accepting of reports alleging misconduct from an officer     

All the complaints should be accepted from all persons who do wish to file complaints. This comprises of reports from sources, juveniles, anonymous people and arrested persons (Allyson & Human rights watch, 1998, pp. 17). Incase the internal affairs personnel is unavailable, then the supervisory personnel ought to report on officer misconducts. Citizens ought to be encouraged to submit complaints as soon as possible.

3.5 Comparison with other agencies/ sections and units

If we are to compare internal affairs unit and special investigations section in New Jersey, there are likely similarities between the two. The special investigations section is dedicated and responsible of carrying out specialized investigative and forensic needs of the state and division.  Their mission is to enhance the citizens’ quality of life and all the visitors to New Jersey through developing intelligence, investigating, deterrence as well as subsequent elimination of the criminal acts conducted by organized criminal individuals and elements. These are two sections that have been at the limelight as they discourage the citizens from complaining hence reforms need to be undertaken.

4.0 Methodology

The assessment of Internal Affairs Unit in New Jersey was conducted through  an on site observation of the internal affairs personnel, interviews, reviews of relevant literature, research, statutes regulations, experiences of the investigators, comparative evaluation of the internal affairs accepted standards and data collection.

Approximately five weeks were set aside for observing, interviewing as well as data collection for the report. In order to determine how the entire internal affairs process was working globally, there was analysis of over 500 police internal affairs annual reports from New Jersey law agencies.  There was a telephone survey of the police departments in order to get information concerning the procedures for complaints. We analyzed the records as well as the policies gotten from the county prosecutors to determine the rate of oversight prosecutors have or exercise over the police internal affairs complaints which are received in the office of the prosecutor.

The survey conducted determined on how easy or hard it was for an average citizen to acquire some basic information from the police agencies on how to file complaints against police officers. The main goal was to see if the employees of the police department understood fully on their own internal affairs complaint procedures and processes and whether or not their inquiries did comply with those of IAPP.

We telephoned approximately 500 law agencies across the entire state including the county, municipal, transit police departments and public police departments.  The survey questionnaires consisted of ten questions on the internal affairs complaint process basing on the law requirements. There was random selection of agencies who were questioned. All the survey calls were made during the working hours when all the internal affairs representatives were present. The people interviewed varied in sex, age as well as ethnic backgrounds.

5.0 Findings

The telephone testing that we conducted revealed that the average citizens do encounter numerous problems and obstacles when it comes to registering of complaints. Most of the police departments discouraged the juveniles to go ahead and file reports without their parents. Most of the departments were not even in a position to accommodate the non- English speakers. Most of the police employees who had fielded our calls were quite hostile and defensive. These are obstacles that discourage the members of the community from lodging complaints.

Getting information was challenging because of the automated answering systems that made it complex to reach on a live person. The systems hardly offer options to citizens’ complaints and only few options that were offered for Spanish speaking groups. Only few departments did meet the requirements of the law as far as making internal affairs section accessible. 65% of the agencies required the complaints to be filed in person while 51% never accept any complaints through telephone. It is only 5% of the agencies that asserted that they do accept complaints via online. 51% of the agencies did not accept complaints by anonymous people and of those that accept 17% of the complaints go uninvestigated.  70% of the agencies did not accept the third party complaints.

 

 

 

 

6.0 Recommendations

  • Mandatory training for all the police recruits to make sure they are aware of the IAPP requirements on citizens complaints
  • Training the police personnel on the procedures of accepting complaints in order for them to be aware that complaints can as well be accepted through mail, online, fax, anonymous people, immigrants, juveniles and third parties.
  • Outreach standards as well as language accessibility in the police departments in jurisdictions with immigrants
  • A national wide 24 hour internal affairs complaint hotline to all those with complaints
  • Instant testing of the skills as well as knowledge of the telephone receptionists as well as the intake officers by the police executives to avoid hostility.

7.0 Conclusion

While most of the police officers and the internal affair agents do follow the rules, the few who refuse to follow end up undermining the confidence of the community as far as law enforcement is concerned. The telephone surveys and the interviews showed that the citizens who tried to register complaints encountered numerous obstacles. The police departments ought to come up with accessible procedures for complaints, train personnel as well as investigate on grievances and release on all the information to the public. The citizens and generally the public ought to know that the public servants do work under guidelines and citizens which protect the citizens from numerous abuse and offer avenues to the public in which they can register their grievances.

 

 

 

 

 

8.0 Appendices

 

8.1 Appendix A: Questionnaire to the agencies

1)      How are complaints filed? Can they be filed via telephone, anonymously or a third party or a juvenile?

2)      Can a complainant immigration age or status preclude their complaint from getting accepted?

3)      Are there translators available to the non- English speaking citizens?

4)      When are the most convenient hours to present any complaint?

5)      Are there any given rules on the nature of the cases that needs to be addressed in a complaint?

8.2 Appendix B: Questionnaire to the New Jersey general citizens

1)      What do you think of the police internal affairs? Is it effective?

 

2)      Have you ever been handled inappropriately when complaining?

3)      What are some of the reforms that you would like to see with the internal affairs section?

4)      What are the main problems affecting this section?

5)      What do you think makes the citizens lose trust with these agencies?

WE ACCEPT