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Police and Law Enforcement Home    >    Editorials    >    Internal Affairs Cases Dragged Out Unnecessarily


Police and
Law Enforcement News




internal Affairs
Cases Dragged
Out Unnecessarily
Police and Law Enforcement News
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
  7:42 p.m.


Last week, the New Jersey State Comptroller issued a report which found that internal affairs investigations are dragged out unnecessarily.

We could not agree more.

The comptroller's report was based on their investigation of the New Jersey State Police Office of Professional Standards, but the truth is that this problem goes far beyond the State Police.

And it is absolutely outrageous.

Being the target of an internal affairs investigation - especially one of a high profile nature - can be one of the most stressful experiences a law enforcement officer can face. 

But it comes with the job, and we accept it.

What we cannot accept is a system which makes officers twist in the wind while the file containing the investigation and the officer's fate sits idle on a desk. 

Our beef is not with the function: it is with the process.   It is with a complaint about officer demeanor that takes months to investigate.  It is with a use-of-force complaint that gets sent up to the prosecutor's office or Attorney General's Office and sits for a year.

Ironically, the only call for expeditious investigations comes from the Internal Affairs Policy which was set up to investigate us in the first place. 

Dubbed the 45-Day Rule, it reads, "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."

While it is a good start, it is not enough.  The section that reads, "of the date the person filing the charge obtained sufficient information to file the charge" leaves too much room for interpretation and circumvention.

And when the case goes up to a higher agency, the delay is often worse.

Some prosecutor's offices will hold on to cases for months, even a year before they render a decision.

While this may sometimes be strategic, especially with higher profile cases, it happens much too often and with cases of all shapes and sizes.

To leave an officer dangling in internal affairs purgatory for months is not fair and not right.

What makes matters worse is the fact that most officers are innocent of the charges filed against them.

Whether the public wants to accept it or not, it is a fact that most complaints against officers are without merit or are a result of a misunderstanding of officers' powers.  (Yes, we can order you to get back into the car, yes, we can prevent you from interfering with the arrest of your cousin, and yes, we can punch someone in the face when they punch us first)

But whether the officer is innocent or not is not the issue.  Our system calls for all to be treated fairly and equally.

We understand that delays are not always avoidable as we mentioned with higher profile cases.  But these incidents are the minority.  Most of the time these cases get backburnered for other projects or delayed by an investigator procrastinating an uncomfortable encounter with either the officer or the complainant.

We hear time and time again how important the citizen complaint process is for maintaining the integrity of law enforcement.  We agree, but the officers must have rights and protections too.

At the end of the day, it's about due process.  If you're going to charge us, charge us.   If not, cut the case loose. 

Everyone would agree that the quicker that a complaint gets properly investigated and settled, the better it is for all involved.

Use the scroll box below to share your opinion.




Share your Thoughts on This Editorial

While all opinions will be considered, we will not post any messages that are inflammatory, that bash any ethnic group, or that are just beyond reason.  Letters will be reviewed and posted each day. reserves the right to alter, shorten, or decline any submission. 



Your Comments

Agree they drag the decisions for months years. So in time we will tend to forget the case. They will shred all facts. And they are looking for some senator for help. Big Joke. Live With it. Will never Change

This is partially due to the weakness and apathy of the unions in failing to represent their members.  No one wants to stir the pot when their SGT stripes or future city job are on the line.  Time for a real change at the union level.  Hire professionals and not officer/politicans.  Take the quid pro quo out of our union system.

I agree totally with these findings.  I have been the victim of "drug-out" internal investigations.  If you do make a complaint about these practices (to the prosecutor's office) you get investigated for superseding the chain of command.  Where is the fair and impartiality? 

My agency (more to the point - their attorney) dragged my case along for 3 and a half years!!! I was finally reinstated but  I never got to testify, had to accept a deal in order to avoid foreclosure, it cost me thousands of dollars (even with LPP) and ruined my credit rating. I almost lost my home and have had to file bankruptcy  . Yes - the system is flawed and the town's use this flaw to get us to give in and accept plea deals that we normally would not.

It is mind blowing how bad this is in my department.  The problem is there is no one to report your department to when they blatantly violate the Internal Affairs Guideline like notifying you when you are the target of an IA.  No one cares.

Absolutely agree!

I am stuck in purgatory from one of the highest profile incidents of 2011.  The only thing my agency did quickly was to give me my letter advising of the internal they were going to do.  The worst part is there is nothing you can really do as the accused except wait to be screwed.  Because let face it, if there were grounds for punishment they wouldn't be sitting on anything.






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