POLICE Magazine

OCT 2018

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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14 POLICE OCTOBER 2018 For example, I was on an appeals board where a sergeant was fighting a suspen- sion he received for not taking a report. Without going into great detail, suffice it to say that if you looked at the scenario the sergeant found himself in, our policy at the time clearly stated that taking a report wasn't required. His captain thought oth- erwise and pushed for an investigation. But because the internal affairs investiga- tion (conducted by a lieutenant in the cap- tain's chain of command) agreed with the captain's point of view, the discipline was administered. During the appeal, I could not convince my fellow board members that the discipline made no sense and it was the first time in my career that I had seen discipline issued without a policy violation. Internal affairs investigations are cov- ered by the Officer Bill of Rights, otherwise known as Garrity Rights, which protect public employees from being compelled to incriminate themselves during investi- gatory interviews conducted by their em- ployers. We will not venture into criminal allegations but stick to discussing pos- sible agency policy violations. My only comment about criminal al- legations is to be very clear on one point. If you are being read your Miranda warn- ings, you are not in an internal affairs investigation but in a criminal one. e distinction is very important. In one you may lose your job, but in the other, you may end up in jail or even prison. When someone is about to read you your Consti- tutional rights, don't believe them when they tell you not to worry and that this is just procedure. at should tell you every- thing you need to know about the person about to ask you questions. IF YOU DESERVE THE REPRIMAND When you are made aware of a complaint against you, you will know if it has merit or not. e question then becomes, if it has merit, what do you do about it? ere are several schools of thought on what to do. One school of thought states you should fight the complaint no matter what. Following this theory, it doesn't matter whether or not you did anything wrong. e only concern is keeping you from receiving discipline. is tactic re- volves around finding some type of pro- cedural error or any other circumstance surrounding the incident that will allow you to influence the preponderance of evidence in your favor. Remember, all you need is a subjective 51% to rule the day. is involves turning your back to the truth and sidestepping your own actions by finding fault with the system. Going this route signals a lack of character and integrity. e other school of thought involves accountability and responsibility. If you did the violation, own it. Unless you were malicious in your decision-making, you probably made a simple mistake or inter- preted the policy incorrectly. Give your thoughts on what you did and why during your internal review. Be honest, accept responsibility, and if need be, apologize. Explain that you understand what went wrong and that you have learned from your mistake. It's been my experience that when you accept responsibility for your actions, things are placed in a much better per- spective for those that have to decide what form of discipline is required. Most ad- ministrators take into consideration that people make mistakes, so what they really look for is how people deal with them. You can either learn from your mistakes or make things worse by ignoring them. IF YOU DON'T DESERVE IT Life isn't fair and sometimes we get caught up in the drama of office politics. Disci- pline is often given out because of conve- nience or politics. Since history is written by the victor, not all reprimands are cre- ated equal. Words have meaning and how the investigation is written leads to the outcome; it's a form of bias. e subjective standard of 51% has bitten many an officer for no good reason other than it made the agency look like it took care of a problem. In today's world, a mere accusation takes on the form of the 1800s Napoleonic Code of guilty until proven innocent. During an internal investigation, you are usually the last person interviewed. You will be given the opportunity to read all witness statements against you. Make sure you do, because that will let you know where you stand not only in terms of the severity of the complaint, but with the people involved. Especially if others from your agency are involved. Obviously, you will find out quickly who is representing the truth and who is not. Take your time reading the material and take notes while you read so you can bring them up during your interview. ough your interview is driven by the questions of the investigator, there is al- ways a point where you are asked if there is anything you'd like to add. If you haven't had an opportunity to address some key issues in the testimony, it's at that point you should whip out your notes and make How To Take the opportunity to read all witness statements against you. Take notes while you read so you can bring them up during your interview. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

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