Grudge I.A. Investigations

In my career of working internal affairs I have often been asked the following question. Has internal affairs been utilized to initiate investigations as a form of harassment, intimidation, or as a way to eliminate an employee? This question comes from officers and civilians alike. I also hear about once per week. My answer unequivocally is yes. There is not a doubt in my mind.

Not too many years ago it was common that a vendetta would put an officer in such a position by falling into disfavor by someone in a police department. The usual thing that I look for in these situations is if the officer had offended in the department, local government, and a citizen.

Falling from favor will eventually work its way around to most police officers. One day an officer is at the top of the ladder and can do no wrong. Overnight they fall from grace. At the time most officers are devastated but, whose fault is it? Well, at times they do it to themselves.

Things float along for years and all is well. Officers become complacent in their jobs and attitudes. In the back of their minds they are not thinking that some things they are doing in their complacency would normally put another officer in trouble. It is known as the fair hair syndrome. Those in this category have been there too long and are too comfortable.

Eventually they screw up. Simple things they should have paid attention to. Taking short cuts on reports, not completing assignments as well as they could and finally they are in the radar. At this point management begins to pick up on these problems. Enough screw-ups and it is time for management to take adverse action. When it happens the officer must take a good hard look at themselves. Remember the good times and how you got where you are. See if you might really be the problem. Don't blame the supervisor or, department until you take stock of the situation. Then take whatever the future may bring and go forward. Sometimes you have to dig your way out.

There are grudge cases. These come from the public or the department. I had an investigation into the theft from an officer's family member employer. The family member was caught stealing and the owner tried to take the officer down. Initially the business owner convinced the Chief the officer was stealing. An IA was ordered. Within a few days and plain old paper trailing revealed there were receipts at the business where the officer purchased the items. The chief was pleased that the officer was cleared. The officer sued and obtained a settlement. Score one for the good guys.

Then there are the department grudge cases. IA officers have been put into positions that they have been told the outcome of the IA before it is investigated. I have never been told where to take a case. I have told all my employers that I will do anything I am asked. However, I will not lie; I will not go against my morals; I will not go to jail for them. I have heard cases where the officers have been told to complete the case the way it was laid out to them. Some followed along; some didn't. I know I would have a hard time keeping something like that on my conscience. I would hope other IA officers would too.

This has been a brief summary of things that can go wrong. Have there been grudge IA's? Again, without a doubt there are. What should an officer do in these cases? Allow the investigation to run its course. You may just be having a run of bad luck. A good IA officer will find the truth. A good Executive officer would not allow this to occur.

Keep your head up and your integrity. There are remedies to these problems. Running the mouth is not the thing to do; pre-outcome statements will come back to haunt you. Contact your union representative or attorney. Even though neither may be allowed in the interview keep them up on what is going on. Make it clear that you have representation. Do not let this be a surprise to the department. Wait till the conclusion of the investigation to consider the best choice of action. When you do take action do it legally and within policy.