The more you know about this process, the more control you may have regarding your safety.
If your allegations are credible and serious enough, the chief may order an internal investigation. The purpose of the internal investigation is to discover the facts of the case, so an investigator will collect statements from you and other witnesses. Your confidentiality is not guaranteed no matter what the investigator says. He/she may be personally concerned for your well-being, but their job is to discover the facts of the case. They will be highly skilled in drawing out information during the witness interviews.
Before you agree to an interview with Internal Affairs, you might want to ask:
The abuser has a legal right to know the allegations against him so any information you give the investigator will be available to your abuser or his attorney. Ironically, compelling you to divulge certain information can actually help shield the abuser from prosecution. If the investigator elicits information from you about a serious incident, and then orders the abuser to answer questions regarding the incident, his compelled statement is protected under the Garrity rule. Keep your safety your highest priority. You have to decide whether or not you are willing to cooperate with the internal and/or criminal investigations. It is your choice whether to cooperate with the internal investigation — unless you are also employed by the department.
Unlike civilian victims, you must cooperate with the investigators if you are a law enforcement officer. Refusal could be grounds for discipline or dismissal. During the investigation, you may face:
The department's number one concern is their own liability.
The department has to protect itself against the liability that your situation presents. If you are an officer or employed by the department, this may be a workplace violence issue and the department is liable for your safety. Though individual supervisors may be sympathetic to you, they must put the department first. Some departments will put you on administrative or medical leave pending an investigation. You may feel betrayed when they seem more worried about the department's liability and public image than about you. If the public is aware of the abuse — perhaps through media coverage — the department may take action whether or not you want them to. Similarly, if your abuser has been identified as a problem officer who is a liability risk, they may override your concerns in order to reduce their exposure.
If they feel that the abuser is a liability, they will support you and encourage you to cooperate with the investigation by telling them everything. If they do not feel that the abuser is a liability, they might make it very difficult for you to report what you know. They might attack your credibility and warn you of the consequences of falsely accusing an officer. Internal Affairs will collect and analyze the facts of the case. Based on a "preponderance of the evidence," they will reach one of the following findings:
The role of Internal Affairs is to gather information, make a finding, present the facts to the chief, and make a recommendation on what, if any, disciplinary action should be taken. It is then up to the chief to make a decision. The process can take a very long time. The quality of the investigation will depend on the size of the department, the resources they have, and the professionalism of administrative officials. There are a number of possible disciplinary actions. The chief can suspend or demote the officer, order the officer into counseling or substance abuse treatment, or terminate the officer. If there is evidence that a crime was committed, the department can take it to the State's Attorney and pursue prosecution. Usually the prosecutor will proceed if the department asks to file charges. Any one of these outcomes may put you at risk of retaliation by the abuser. You may need to implement your safety plan.Back to top
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