Part II: The Ombudsman and Problems with Police Internal Affairs

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This is part of two of a seven part series examing the Davis Police Ombudsman Position. Yesterday, I reviewed the Davis City Council’s attitude toward police oversight in general and speculated that they implemented the system reluctantly and that as we examine the system itself, we will see that reflected in the weakness of the model overall.

In order to understand the Davis Police Ombudsman model, we must examine the Police Internal Affairs Department (PIAD). The Internal Affairs department is important because under the Davis model, the PIAD continues to perform the primary investigation. The following is directly from the City Council May 2, 2006 Agenda item (emphasis in the original):

Development of a police ombudsman function is in addition, not in lieu of, existing processes – We must be clear that the police ombudsman provides a complementary level of oversight to police actions; the position does not replace them. The police ombudsman is not meant to circumvent the Police Department. The position does not normally do investigations in lieu of the police doing them.

To this point, we have assumed we need a new process for review of police complaints. The question is, does Davis have a problem with regards to police complaints and is the current process suitable for addressing these problems.

At the February 21, 2006 City Council Meeting, then Police Chief Jim Hyde, described what he called a fairly low number of police complaints and an extremely low number of sustained complaints.

· 2003 — 23 citizen complaints filed; 2 sustained

· 2004 — 17 citizen complaints filed; 0 sustained

· 2005 — 34 citizen complaints filed; 3 sustained

These numbers were purported by the chief to reflect a very low level of need for police oversight (basically low complaints—lack of sustained complaints). The utter lack of sustained complaints has been cited again and again by the police and the council as evidence that this problem is being blown up beyond all proportions. On May 2, 2006, Don Saylor said, “Every specific case that has been raised has been shown to be without merit.”

A 2002 report by the U.S. Department of Justice warns against such a conclusion.

[T]he meaning of a complaint rate is not entirely clear: a low force complaint rate could mean that police are performing well or that the complaint process is inaccessible; likewise, a high force complaint rate could mean that officers use force often or that the complaint process is more accessible.

The problem with the data presentation by the chief is that it lacked any sort of means to evaluate the wrong numbers. Are these numbers low as the chief suggested? Or are they actually high. Saylor on February 21 actually asked the chief the right question, asking him how this compares to other communities. Hyde dodged this question by stating that communities vary and therefore are difficult to compare. And Saylor never pushed him on the issue.

If he had, we might have gotten a very different story. A good example appears in John Burris’ book, “Blue versus Black.”

Los Angeles in 1995 was the poster-child for police corruption that eventually led to the FBI and the Department of Justice mandating changes. In 1995, there were 561 citizen complaints against the LAPD. Of these, ZERO were sustained. Zero. Now you can argue, well that is because the citizens are making faulty complaints that have no merit. Yet if we look at another figure, Los Angeles ended up paying out $34 million in settlements to lawsuits filed against the Police Department during that year.

Los Angeles can represent a baseline for a measure of police corruption. Los Angeles in 1995 had roughly 3.5 million people or 55 times the population of Davis. If we prorate LA to a city the size of Davis, we might expect 10.098 complaints in Davis in a given year, and zero sustained. What we see over the last three year period is 74 complaints or nearly 25 per year, 2.5 times the expected rate of complaints. Instead of zero sustained complaints, there were actually five.

The lesson here is that for a city the size of Davis, what looks like a small number of complaints, is actually a much higher rate than for 1995 Los Angeles with a thoroughly corrupt police department.

The next question is why there are so few sustained complaints by Internal Affairs Departments. And the problem is universal, in 2002, there were around 26,000 complaints nationwide. About a third of all complaints in 2002 were not sustained (34%). Twenty-five percent were unfounded, 23% resulted in officers being exonerated, and 8% were sustained.

Burris’ experience as a litigator against police misconduct leads him to the following conclusion about Internal Affairs investigations: They “offer little opportunity for the complainant to be heard. Invariably, when it’s his or her word against a police officer’s, the complaint is judged “unfounded”—even when the officer in question has a history of misconduct or abuse complaints. And, even when Internal Affairs “sustains” a complaint, the sanctions often fall painfully short of being reasonable—or punitive (84).”

This is not to suggest that every complaint against a police officer has merit or is accurate. “People lie to get off the hook; they lie to get back at an officer who may have arrested them, or a friend, or a family member; they overreact; they resist a legitimate arrest and cause the actions that take place. But it’s ludicrous to believe that 84 percent of citizen complaints are unwarranted—as Philadelphia’s records suggests. (85, emphasis added).”

Burris also cites a Dateline NBC story from 1999 where they sent an undercover reporter into several precincts in New York City. In all but one case, the African-American reporter was treated with hostility and sarcasm. He was asked repeatedly what he did and whether he was on probation, etc.

These occurred in New York, but the experiences that citizens in Davis have had is not much different. In the recent Buzayan case, the Internal Affairs Officer, Sgt. Gina Anderson is accused of using an interview with the minor to attempt to coerce and intimidate her into confession.

In the current process, a citizen files a complaint; Sgt. Anderson investigates that complaint and issues a finding. The individual can then appeal the complaint to the City Manager, who does not conduct a new investigation, rather he simply reviews the existing investigation and issues a ruling based on that. As we will see tomorrow, the new system put in place by the Davis City Council, does not change this process nearly as much as they purport to.

—Doug Paul Davis Reporting
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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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36 thoughts on “Part II: The Ombudsman and Problems with Police Internal Affairs”

  1. Anonymous

    All the cities with police review commissions have much higher rates of crime than do those cities without police review commissions. The cities with police review commissions have police who are afraid to stop crime because the police officer is afraid of being accused of bias, racism, or incompetence. So, they just ignore potential criminal activity. Richmond, CA and Oakland, CA had low violent crime rates before they had police review commissions, now these same cities have out-of-control murder rates.

    Why are you fighting to change Davis into a high-crime area? Why are you accusing the police of wrong-doing without any evidence. If you want to live in a community with a police review commission, please move to Richmond, CA or Oakland, CA first. Live there for a year, and then decide.

    You are advocating for crime, unsafe streets, and fear of walking at night. Please stop this.

  2. Anonymous

    All the cities with police review commissions have much higher rates of crime than do those cities without police review commissions. The cities with police review commissions have police who are afraid to stop crime because the police officer is afraid of being accused of bias, racism, or incompetence. So, they just ignore potential criminal activity. Richmond, CA and Oakland, CA had low violent crime rates before they had police review commissions, now these same cities have out-of-control murder rates.

    Why are you fighting to change Davis into a high-crime area? Why are you accusing the police of wrong-doing without any evidence. If you want to live in a community with a police review commission, please move to Richmond, CA or Oakland, CA first. Live there for a year, and then decide.

    You are advocating for crime, unsafe streets, and fear of walking at night. Please stop this.

  3. Anonymous

    All the cities with police review commissions have much higher rates of crime than do those cities without police review commissions. The cities with police review commissions have police who are afraid to stop crime because the police officer is afraid of being accused of bias, racism, or incompetence. So, they just ignore potential criminal activity. Richmond, CA and Oakland, CA had low violent crime rates before they had police review commissions, now these same cities have out-of-control murder rates.

    Why are you fighting to change Davis into a high-crime area? Why are you accusing the police of wrong-doing without any evidence. If you want to live in a community with a police review commission, please move to Richmond, CA or Oakland, CA first. Live there for a year, and then decide.

    You are advocating for crime, unsafe streets, and fear of walking at night. Please stop this.

  4. Anonymous

    All the cities with police review commissions have much higher rates of crime than do those cities without police review commissions. The cities with police review commissions have police who are afraid to stop crime because the police officer is afraid of being accused of bias, racism, or incompetence. So, they just ignore potential criminal activity. Richmond, CA and Oakland, CA had low violent crime rates before they had police review commissions, now these same cities have out-of-control murder rates.

    Why are you fighting to change Davis into a high-crime area? Why are you accusing the police of wrong-doing without any evidence. If you want to live in a community with a police review commission, please move to Richmond, CA or Oakland, CA first. Live there for a year, and then decide.

    You are advocating for crime, unsafe streets, and fear of walking at night. Please stop this.

  5. Doug Paul Davis

    Without looking at the stats, I’d guess that Richmond and Oakland’s crime rates coincided with the national rates and their increase. If you have evidence to the contrary I’d love to see it.

    In general I think this is a strawman argument. Scare tactics that if we oversee the operations of the police, that crime will go out of control. If the police do their job, they have nothing to fear.

  6. Doug Paul Davis

    Without looking at the stats, I’d guess that Richmond and Oakland’s crime rates coincided with the national rates and their increase. If you have evidence to the contrary I’d love to see it.

    In general I think this is a strawman argument. Scare tactics that if we oversee the operations of the police, that crime will go out of control. If the police do their job, they have nothing to fear.

  7. Doug Paul Davis

    Without looking at the stats, I’d guess that Richmond and Oakland’s crime rates coincided with the national rates and their increase. If you have evidence to the contrary I’d love to see it.

    In general I think this is a strawman argument. Scare tactics that if we oversee the operations of the police, that crime will go out of control. If the police do their job, they have nothing to fear.

  8. Doug Paul Davis

    Without looking at the stats, I’d guess that Richmond and Oakland’s crime rates coincided with the national rates and their increase. If you have evidence to the contrary I’d love to see it.

    In general I think this is a strawman argument. Scare tactics that if we oversee the operations of the police, that crime will go out of control. If the police do their job, they have nothing to fear.

  9. jeancreo

    The June 2006 election involved the first contested election for Yole County District Attorney in 20 years. The uniform, homogeneous reaction of all the local law enforcement bodies was instructive. First, they were all pressured into giving public endorsements.on the Courthouse steps, of the same one deputy district attorney, and not the other. Second, the public attacks on the disfavored deputy d.a., a highly competent woman who has raised her family in Yolo County for many years, would be slander if it were not an election. From the Yolo County Sheriff on down, they signed a public mailer which identified the disfavored attorney as substantially unqualified to practice law at all because of brain damage. Unfortunately, this rigidly tight blue “shield” can become a very useful tactic in covering up police mis-doing in numerous other contexts and can become an occasional method of “framing” the wrong party, when no one else can be found. The dirty character-assassination political campaign waged by our local law enforcement inspires great distrust of their truthfulness. The police evidently felt they needed to win this election in order to keep their lockdown going in the poor neighborhoods of West Sac, despite its probable unconstitutionality. Unfortunately, they were willing to lie and put up a false front to do anything to win. Even with the unanimous hatchet-job by the police and current da, their victim got 46% of the public’s vote. Almost half of the people who voted did not believe the law enforcement agencies. Not exactly a vote of confidence in the tactics of law enforcement in this year. If “anonymous” wants to give unbridled power to our local law enforcement, why must that person’s free speech be signed as “anonymous”? It seems self-contradicting. As George Bush says: the people have nothing to hide. It is only the Government which needs to hide everything as “state secrets.” If it were not funny, it would be tyrannical.

  10. jeancreo

    The June 2006 election involved the first contested election for Yole County District Attorney in 20 years. The uniform, homogeneous reaction of all the local law enforcement bodies was instructive. First, they were all pressured into giving public endorsements.on the Courthouse steps, of the same one deputy district attorney, and not the other. Second, the public attacks on the disfavored deputy d.a., a highly competent woman who has raised her family in Yolo County for many years, would be slander if it were not an election. From the Yolo County Sheriff on down, they signed a public mailer which identified the disfavored attorney as substantially unqualified to practice law at all because of brain damage. Unfortunately, this rigidly tight blue “shield” can become a very useful tactic in covering up police mis-doing in numerous other contexts and can become an occasional method of “framing” the wrong party, when no one else can be found. The dirty character-assassination political campaign waged by our local law enforcement inspires great distrust of their truthfulness. The police evidently felt they needed to win this election in order to keep their lockdown going in the poor neighborhoods of West Sac, despite its probable unconstitutionality. Unfortunately, they were willing to lie and put up a false front to do anything to win. Even with the unanimous hatchet-job by the police and current da, their victim got 46% of the public’s vote. Almost half of the people who voted did not believe the law enforcement agencies. Not exactly a vote of confidence in the tactics of law enforcement in this year. If “anonymous” wants to give unbridled power to our local law enforcement, why must that person’s free speech be signed as “anonymous”? It seems self-contradicting. As George Bush says: the people have nothing to hide. It is only the Government which needs to hide everything as “state secrets.” If it were not funny, it would be tyrannical.

  11. jeancreo

    The June 2006 election involved the first contested election for Yole County District Attorney in 20 years. The uniform, homogeneous reaction of all the local law enforcement bodies was instructive. First, they were all pressured into giving public endorsements.on the Courthouse steps, of the same one deputy district attorney, and not the other. Second, the public attacks on the disfavored deputy d.a., a highly competent woman who has raised her family in Yolo County for many years, would be slander if it were not an election. From the Yolo County Sheriff on down, they signed a public mailer which identified the disfavored attorney as substantially unqualified to practice law at all because of brain damage. Unfortunately, this rigidly tight blue “shield” can become a very useful tactic in covering up police mis-doing in numerous other contexts and can become an occasional method of “framing” the wrong party, when no one else can be found. The dirty character-assassination political campaign waged by our local law enforcement inspires great distrust of their truthfulness. The police evidently felt they needed to win this election in order to keep their lockdown going in the poor neighborhoods of West Sac, despite its probable unconstitutionality. Unfortunately, they were willing to lie and put up a false front to do anything to win. Even with the unanimous hatchet-job by the police and current da, their victim got 46% of the public’s vote. Almost half of the people who voted did not believe the law enforcement agencies. Not exactly a vote of confidence in the tactics of law enforcement in this year. If “anonymous” wants to give unbridled power to our local law enforcement, why must that person’s free speech be signed as “anonymous”? It seems self-contradicting. As George Bush says: the people have nothing to hide. It is only the Government which needs to hide everything as “state secrets.” If it were not funny, it would be tyrannical.

  12. jeancreo

    The June 2006 election involved the first contested election for Yole County District Attorney in 20 years. The uniform, homogeneous reaction of all the local law enforcement bodies was instructive. First, they were all pressured into giving public endorsements.on the Courthouse steps, of the same one deputy district attorney, and not the other. Second, the public attacks on the disfavored deputy d.a., a highly competent woman who has raised her family in Yolo County for many years, would be slander if it were not an election. From the Yolo County Sheriff on down, they signed a public mailer which identified the disfavored attorney as substantially unqualified to practice law at all because of brain damage. Unfortunately, this rigidly tight blue “shield” can become a very useful tactic in covering up police mis-doing in numerous other contexts and can become an occasional method of “framing” the wrong party, when no one else can be found. The dirty character-assassination political campaign waged by our local law enforcement inspires great distrust of their truthfulness. The police evidently felt they needed to win this election in order to keep their lockdown going in the poor neighborhoods of West Sac, despite its probable unconstitutionality. Unfortunately, they were willing to lie and put up a false front to do anything to win. Even with the unanimous hatchet-job by the police and current da, their victim got 46% of the public’s vote. Almost half of the people who voted did not believe the law enforcement agencies. Not exactly a vote of confidence in the tactics of law enforcement in this year. If “anonymous” wants to give unbridled power to our local law enforcement, why must that person’s free speech be signed as “anonymous”? It seems self-contradicting. As George Bush says: the people have nothing to hide. It is only the Government which needs to hide everything as “state secrets.” If it were not funny, it would be tyrannical.

  13. Doug Paul Davis

    “you aren’t overseeing police operations, you are making personal attacks on individuals who work as policemen.”

    You’re right, I’m not overseeing police operations. I’m running blogsite and posting information.

  14. Doug Paul Davis

    “you aren’t overseeing police operations, you are making personal attacks on individuals who work as policemen.”

    You’re right, I’m not overseeing police operations. I’m running blogsite and posting information.

  15. Doug Paul Davis

    “you aren’t overseeing police operations, you are making personal attacks on individuals who work as policemen.”

    You’re right, I’m not overseeing police operations. I’m running blogsite and posting information.

  16. Doug Paul Davis

    “you aren’t overseeing police operations, you are making personal attacks on individuals who work as policemen.”

    You’re right, I’m not overseeing police operations. I’m running blogsite and posting information.

  17. Anonymous

    Wow that was a informative piece. I’m a bit surprised at two of the previous posters. I did not see this piece as an attack on persons who are policemen. I have lived in area with police oversight, namely Navato, and did not find a huge crime wave. I know a lot of police who actually like it because it has fostered a great deal of trust within the community. I do not understand the great fear.

  18. Anonymous

    Wow that was a informative piece. I’m a bit surprised at two of the previous posters. I did not see this piece as an attack on persons who are policemen. I have lived in area with police oversight, namely Navato, and did not find a huge crime wave. I know a lot of police who actually like it because it has fostered a great deal of trust within the community. I do not understand the great fear.

  19. Anonymous

    Wow that was a informative piece. I’m a bit surprised at two of the previous posters. I did not see this piece as an attack on persons who are policemen. I have lived in area with police oversight, namely Navato, and did not find a huge crime wave. I know a lot of police who actually like it because it has fostered a great deal of trust within the community. I do not understand the great fear.

  20. Anonymous

    Wow that was a informative piece. I’m a bit surprised at two of the previous posters. I did not see this piece as an attack on persons who are policemen. I have lived in area with police oversight, namely Navato, and did not find a huge crime wave. I know a lot of police who actually like it because it has fostered a great deal of trust within the community. I do not understand the great fear.

  21. Henry Bianco

    I’d suggest that the two posters who attacked the blog entry, have probably not had to deal with a situation in which they’ve been on the receiving end of mistreatment by the police. In the minority community this is a very serious issue. If we took a poll, we’d probably find that the Davis Police Department has 85-90% approval and most of the citizens have no complaints. We’d be tempted to read those stats to mean that the police was doing a good job. But if you have a 10 percent segment of the population, most of them minorities, who have had bad experiences with the police, I’d suggest that that is a serious problem.

  22. Henry Bianco

    I’d suggest that the two posters who attacked the blog entry, have probably not had to deal with a situation in which they’ve been on the receiving end of mistreatment by the police. In the minority community this is a very serious issue. If we took a poll, we’d probably find that the Davis Police Department has 85-90% approval and most of the citizens have no complaints. We’d be tempted to read those stats to mean that the police was doing a good job. But if you have a 10 percent segment of the population, most of them minorities, who have had bad experiences with the police, I’d suggest that that is a serious problem.

  23. Henry Bianco

    I’d suggest that the two posters who attacked the blog entry, have probably not had to deal with a situation in which they’ve been on the receiving end of mistreatment by the police. In the minority community this is a very serious issue. If we took a poll, we’d probably find that the Davis Police Department has 85-90% approval and most of the citizens have no complaints. We’d be tempted to read those stats to mean that the police was doing a good job. But if you have a 10 percent segment of the population, most of them minorities, who have had bad experiences with the police, I’d suggest that that is a serious problem.

  24. Henry Bianco

    I’d suggest that the two posters who attacked the blog entry, have probably not had to deal with a situation in which they’ve been on the receiving end of mistreatment by the police. In the minority community this is a very serious issue. If we took a poll, we’d probably find that the Davis Police Department has 85-90% approval and most of the citizens have no complaints. We’d be tempted to read those stats to mean that the police was doing a good job. But if you have a 10 percent segment of the population, most of them minorities, who have had bad experiences with the police, I’d suggest that that is a serious problem.

  25. Dean Johansson

    Henry Bianco, I applaud you and your very insightful comment that goes right to the point. The US Constitution and its safeguards are to the same point, the protection of minority interests and a shield against a dictatorship of the majority. The Constitution’s framers had first-hand empirical knowledge of governments’ quick movement towards totalitarian dictatorship, repression, and media monopoly. In Davis the majority power is with the white establishment propertied interests and for those that reflect the minority, whether they are poor, black, etc., their experience is much different reality, i.e. the police Billy club. And yes, I talk from first-hand empirical knowledge. And no, I don’t hide behind an alias. See http://www.yoloaclu.org.

  26. Dean Johansson

    Henry Bianco, I applaud you and your very insightful comment that goes right to the point. The US Constitution and its safeguards are to the same point, the protection of minority interests and a shield against a dictatorship of the majority. The Constitution’s framers had first-hand empirical knowledge of governments’ quick movement towards totalitarian dictatorship, repression, and media monopoly. In Davis the majority power is with the white establishment propertied interests and for those that reflect the minority, whether they are poor, black, etc., their experience is much different reality, i.e. the police Billy club. And yes, I talk from first-hand empirical knowledge. And no, I don’t hide behind an alias. See http://www.yoloaclu.org.

  27. Dean Johansson

    Henry Bianco, I applaud you and your very insightful comment that goes right to the point. The US Constitution and its safeguards are to the same point, the protection of minority interests and a shield against a dictatorship of the majority. The Constitution’s framers had first-hand empirical knowledge of governments’ quick movement towards totalitarian dictatorship, repression, and media monopoly. In Davis the majority power is with the white establishment propertied interests and for those that reflect the minority, whether they are poor, black, etc., their experience is much different reality, i.e. the police Billy club. And yes, I talk from first-hand empirical knowledge. And no, I don’t hide behind an alias. See http://www.yoloaclu.org.

  28. Dean Johansson

    Henry Bianco, I applaud you and your very insightful comment that goes right to the point. The US Constitution and its safeguards are to the same point, the protection of minority interests and a shield against a dictatorship of the majority. The Constitution’s framers had first-hand empirical knowledge of governments’ quick movement towards totalitarian dictatorship, repression, and media monopoly. In Davis the majority power is with the white establishment propertied interests and for those that reflect the minority, whether they are poor, black, etc., their experience is much different reality, i.e. the police Billy club. And yes, I talk from first-hand empirical knowledge. And no, I don’t hide behind an alias. See http://www.yoloaclu.org.

  29. Doug Paul Davis

    Very interesting report from Human Rights Watch (1998):

    http://www.hrw.org/reports98/police/uspo25.htm

    Internal Affairs Units

    Internal affairs divisions are at the center of any examination of how police departments deal with human rights abuses committed by officers. It is alarming, therefore, that no outside review, including our own, has found the operations of internal affairs divisions in any of the major U.S. cities satisfactory.107 In each city we examined, internal affairs units conducted substandard investigations, sustained few allegations of excessive force, and failed to identify, or deal appropriately with, problem officers against whom repeated complaints had been filed. In many cases, sloppy procedures and an apparent bias in favor of fellow officers combine to guarantee that even the most brutal police avoid punishment for serious violations until committing an abuse that is so flagrant, so unavoidably embarrassing, that it cannot be ignored. Since oversight commissions and journalistic investigations have found that a small percentage of officers are responsible for large percentages of abuses, this failure to identify and punish repeat offenders is evidently at the hub of the problem.

    The workings of internal affairs divisions are cloaked in excessive secrecy: information about their operations is only disclosed in incomplete and occasional fashion through investigative newspaper articles, books, and special commission studies on police departments, usually following major scandals. Otherwise, the public is prevented from participating in, or even knowing about, the way police officers patrolling their streets are dealt with when they commit abuses. While police representatives claim privacy issues are the reason for protecting information about investigations or disciplinary hearings, police departments also resist providing information even when relevant names and other identifying information are excised. Observers are left wondering why no information is disclosed to support the contention that the police are policing themselves.

    The few occasions the public has been allowed a glimpse of the inner workings of police departments in the 1990s have given cause for alarm. All of the three commissions reviewing police misconduct in major cities since 1991 (in Boston, LosAngeles, and New York) found serious shortcomings in the way internal affairs divisions handled complaints. In other cities (including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, and New Orleans), investigative reporters and police abuse experts have also concluded that internal investigations were not being conducted properly.

    After reviewing 250 internal-affairs division cases, the St. Clair Commission in Boston concluded that the division was sustaining an abnormally low number of complaints:

    Our investigation into the Department’s handling of citizen complaints of police misconduct…was particularly troubling. Our study revealed an investigative and hearing process characterized by shoddy, halfhearted investigations, lengthy delays, and inadequate documentation and record-keeping. The present Internal Affairs process is unfairly skewed against those bringing a complaint. Given the Internal Affairs Division’s (“IAD”) failure to routinely provide thorough and timely investigations of alleged misconduct, and the fact that the department sustains less than 6% of complaints against officers, it is no surprise that the overwhelming majority of community residents we spoke to have little confidence in the department’s ability or willingness to police itself….108

    The Christopher Commission in Los Angeles found that the Internal Affairs Division (IAD) of the LAPD had sustained only 2 percent of the excessive force complaints and stated: “Our study indicates that there are significant problems with the initiation, investigation, and classification of complaints.” It called the IAD investigations “unfairly skewed against the complainant.”109

    When Temple University police abuse expert Prof. James J. Fyfe reviewed Philadelphia’s internal affairs unit’s files, he found documents missing and the files generally in disarray. The Philadelphia Inquirer has published many in-depth investigative reports finding the Internal Affairs Division’s work seriously flawed. In 1997, one monitor found Philadelphia’s internal affairs files reflected thorough investigations, while attorneys who were allowed to view some internal affairs records as part of a court-monitored agreement with the city found “significant shortcomings in too many of the investigative files that we reviewed,” and that IAD investigators were “justifying the officers’ actions where an independent analysiswould find misconduct.”110 When a San Francisco Examiner reporter reviewed the San Francisco Police Department’s internal affairs unit’s record on police shootings, he found that internal investigations were seriously botched, allowing officers to avoid disciplinary sanctions or prosecution.111 The Internal Affairs Division of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., is unable to account for case files it received from the now-abolished review board. When the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was able to obtain Internal Affairs Division files of that city’s police force, after a lengthy delay, and reviewed the “contents list” in those files, it found that key items listed were missing.

    In New Orleans, an attorney who represents victims of police abuse obtained internal affairs files and found them disorganized; she also found that the department was using an incorrect standard of proof in deciding whether to sustain complaints – the criminal “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, instead of “preponderance of the evidence,” which is the generally accepted standard for internal inquiries.112 The records showed a sustained rate of about 1 to 2 percent for excessive force complaints filed against officers by civilians, with the sustained rate for officer-reported complaints a bit higher.113

    Although off-duty conduct is not the focus of this study, we note that in the cities examined, off-duty criminal or violent behavior, particularly abuses that take place while officers “moonlight” as security guards in their off-hours, are not sufficiently monitored by internal affairs units. Police officers who become involved in altercations, bar fights, or domestic violence escape appropriate scrutiny due to poor tracking by internal affairs units. This is particularly true when the incident takes place beyond the jurisdiction where the officer works. At the same time, off-duty police officers who commit abuses frequently enjoy the protection of colleagues from their own and other forces. As of this writing, police forces around the country are grappling with, and in some cases opposing, implementation of new federal legislation prohibiting anyone, including police officers, with misdemeanor or felony convictions relating to domestic violence from carrying a gun or ammunition, thus requiring desk duty, and, in practice, dismissal for those officers.114

    Go to the link to read more…

  30. Doug Paul Davis

    Very interesting report from Human Rights Watch (1998):

    http://www.hrw.org/reports98/police/uspo25.htm

    Internal Affairs Units

    Internal affairs divisions are at the center of any examination of how police departments deal with human rights abuses committed by officers. It is alarming, therefore, that no outside review, including our own, has found the operations of internal affairs divisions in any of the major U.S. cities satisfactory.107 In each city we examined, internal affairs units conducted substandard investigations, sustained few allegations of excessive force, and failed to identify, or deal appropriately with, problem officers against whom repeated complaints had been filed. In many cases, sloppy procedures and an apparent bias in favor of fellow officers combine to guarantee that even the most brutal police avoid punishment for serious violations until committing an abuse that is so flagrant, so unavoidably embarrassing, that it cannot be ignored. Since oversight commissions and journalistic investigations have found that a small percentage of officers are responsible for large percentages of abuses, this failure to identify and punish repeat offenders is evidently at the hub of the problem.

    The workings of internal affairs divisions are cloaked in excessive secrecy: information about their operations is only disclosed in incomplete and occasional fashion through investigative newspaper articles, books, and special commission studies on police departments, usually following major scandals. Otherwise, the public is prevented from participating in, or even knowing about, the way police officers patrolling their streets are dealt with when they commit abuses. While police representatives claim privacy issues are the reason for protecting information about investigations or disciplinary hearings, police departments also resist providing information even when relevant names and other identifying information are excised. Observers are left wondering why no information is disclosed to support the contention that the police are policing themselves.

    The few occasions the public has been allowed a glimpse of the inner workings of police departments in the 1990s have given cause for alarm. All of the three commissions reviewing police misconduct in major cities since 1991 (in Boston, LosAngeles, and New York) found serious shortcomings in the way internal affairs divisions handled complaints. In other cities (including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, and New Orleans), investigative reporters and police abuse experts have also concluded that internal investigations were not being conducted properly.

    After reviewing 250 internal-affairs division cases, the St. Clair Commission in Boston concluded that the division was sustaining an abnormally low number of complaints:

    Our investigation into the Department’s handling of citizen complaints of police misconduct…was particularly troubling. Our study revealed an investigative and hearing process characterized by shoddy, halfhearted investigations, lengthy delays, and inadequate documentation and record-keeping. The present Internal Affairs process is unfairly skewed against those bringing a complaint. Given the Internal Affairs Division’s (“IAD”) failure to routinely provide thorough and timely investigations of alleged misconduct, and the fact that the department sustains less than 6% of complaints against officers, it is no surprise that the overwhelming majority of community residents we spoke to have little confidence in the department’s ability or willingness to police itself….108

    The Christopher Commission in Los Angeles found that the Internal Affairs Division (IAD) of the LAPD had sustained only 2 percent of the excessive force complaints and stated: “Our study indicates that there are significant problems with the initiation, investigation, and classification of complaints.” It called the IAD investigations “unfairly skewed against the complainant.”109

    When Temple University police abuse expert Prof. James J. Fyfe reviewed Philadelphia’s internal affairs unit’s files, he found documents missing and the files generally in disarray. The Philadelphia Inquirer has published many in-depth investigative reports finding the Internal Affairs Division’s work seriously flawed. In 1997, one monitor found Philadelphia’s internal affairs files reflected thorough investigations, while attorneys who were allowed to view some internal affairs records as part of a court-monitored agreement with the city found “significant shortcomings in too many of the investigative files that we reviewed,” and that IAD investigators were “justifying the officers’ actions where an independent analysiswould find misconduct.”110 When a San Francisco Examiner reporter reviewed the San Francisco Police Department’s internal affairs unit’s record on police shootings, he found that internal investigations were seriously botched, allowing officers to avoid disciplinary sanctions or prosecution.111 The Internal Affairs Division of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., is unable to account for case files it received from the now-abolished review board. When the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was able to obtain Internal Affairs Division files of that city’s police force, after a lengthy delay, and reviewed the “contents list” in those files, it found that key items listed were missing.

    In New Orleans, an attorney who represents victims of police abuse obtained internal affairs files and found them disorganized; she also found that the department was using an incorrect standard of proof in deciding whether to sustain complaints – the criminal “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, instead of “preponderance of the evidence,” which is the generally accepted standard for internal inquiries.112 The records showed a sustained rate of about 1 to 2 percent for excessive force complaints filed against officers by civilians, with the sustained rate for officer-reported complaints a bit higher.113

    Although off-duty conduct is not the focus of this study, we note that in the cities examined, off-duty criminal or violent behavior, particularly abuses that take place while officers “moonlight” as security guards in their off-hours, are not sufficiently monitored by internal affairs units. Police officers who become involved in altercations, bar fights, or domestic violence escape appropriate scrutiny due to poor tracking by internal affairs units. This is particularly true when the incident takes place beyond the jurisdiction where the officer works. At the same time, off-duty police officers who commit abuses frequently enjoy the protection of colleagues from their own and other forces. As of this writing, police forces around the country are grappling with, and in some cases opposing, implementation of new federal legislation prohibiting anyone, including police officers, with misdemeanor or felony convictions relating to domestic violence from carrying a gun or ammunition, thus requiring desk duty, and, in practice, dismissal for those officers.114

    Go to the link to read more…

  31. Doug Paul Davis

    Very interesting report from Human Rights Watch (1998):

    http://www.hrw.org/reports98/police/uspo25.htm

    Internal Affairs Units

    Internal affairs divisions are at the center of any examination of how police departments deal with human rights abuses committed by officers. It is alarming, therefore, that no outside review, including our own, has found the operations of internal affairs divisions in any of the major U.S. cities satisfactory.107 In each city we examined, internal affairs units conducted substandard investigations, sustained few allegations of excessive force, and failed to identify, or deal appropriately with, problem officers against whom repeated complaints had been filed. In many cases, sloppy procedures and an apparent bias in favor of fellow officers combine to guarantee that even the most brutal police avoid punishment for serious violations until committing an abuse that is so flagrant, so unavoidably embarrassing, that it cannot be ignored. Since oversight commissions and journalistic investigations have found that a small percentage of officers are responsible for large percentages of abuses, this failure to identify and punish repeat offenders is evidently at the hub of the problem.

    The workings of internal affairs divisions are cloaked in excessive secrecy: information about their operations is only disclosed in incomplete and occasional fashion through investigative newspaper articles, books, and special commission studies on police departments, usually following major scandals. Otherwise, the public is prevented from participating in, or even knowing about, the way police officers patrolling their streets are dealt with when they commit abuses. While police representatives claim privacy issues are the reason for protecting information about investigations or disciplinary hearings, police departments also resist providing information even when relevant names and other identifying information are excised. Observers are left wondering why no information is disclosed to support the contention that the police are policing themselves.

    The few occasions the public has been allowed a glimpse of the inner workings of police departments in the 1990s have given cause for alarm. All of the three commissions reviewing police misconduct in major cities since 1991 (in Boston, LosAngeles, and New York) found serious shortcomings in the way internal affairs divisions handled complaints. In other cities (including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, and New Orleans), investigative reporters and police abuse experts have also concluded that internal investigations were not being conducted properly.

    After reviewing 250 internal-affairs division cases, the St. Clair Commission in Boston concluded that the division was sustaining an abnormally low number of complaints:

    Our investigation into the Department’s handling of citizen complaints of police misconduct…was particularly troubling. Our study revealed an investigative and hearing process characterized by shoddy, halfhearted investigations, lengthy delays, and inadequate documentation and record-keeping. The present Internal Affairs process is unfairly skewed against those bringing a complaint. Given the Internal Affairs Division’s (“IAD”) failure to routinely provide thorough and timely investigations of alleged misconduct, and the fact that the department sustains less than 6% of complaints against officers, it is no surprise that the overwhelming majority of community residents we spoke to have little confidence in the department’s ability or willingness to police itself….108

    The Christopher Commission in Los Angeles found that the Internal Affairs Division (IAD) of the LAPD had sustained only 2 percent of the excessive force complaints and stated: “Our study indicates that there are significant problems with the initiation, investigation, and classification of complaints.” It called the IAD investigations “unfairly skewed against the complainant.”109

    When Temple University police abuse expert Prof. James J. Fyfe reviewed Philadelphia’s internal affairs unit’s files, he found documents missing and the files generally in disarray. The Philadelphia Inquirer has published many in-depth investigative reports finding the Internal Affairs Division’s work seriously flawed. In 1997, one monitor found Philadelphia’s internal affairs files reflected thorough investigations, while attorneys who were allowed to view some internal affairs records as part of a court-monitored agreement with the city found “significant shortcomings in too many of the investigative files that we reviewed,” and that IAD investigators were “justifying the officers’ actions where an independent analysiswould find misconduct.”110 When a San Francisco Examiner reporter reviewed the San Francisco Police Department’s internal affairs unit’s record on police shootings, he found that internal investigations were seriously botched, allowing officers to avoid disciplinary sanctions or prosecution.111 The Internal Affairs Division of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., is unable to account for case files it received from the now-abolished review board. When the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was able to obtain Internal Affairs Division files of that city’s police force, after a lengthy delay, and reviewed the “contents list” in those files, it found that key items listed were missing.

    In New Orleans, an attorney who represents victims of police abuse obtained internal affairs files and found them disorganized; she also found that the department was using an incorrect standard of proof in deciding whether to sustain complaints – the criminal “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, instead of “preponderance of the evidence,” which is the generally accepted standard for internal inquiries.112 The records showed a sustained rate of about 1 to 2 percent for excessive force complaints filed against officers by civilians, with the sustained rate for officer-reported complaints a bit higher.113

    Although off-duty conduct is not the focus of this study, we note that in the cities examined, off-duty criminal or violent behavior, particularly abuses that take place while officers “moonlight” as security guards in their off-hours, are not sufficiently monitored by internal affairs units. Police officers who become involved in altercations, bar fights, or domestic violence escape appropriate scrutiny due to poor tracking by internal affairs units. This is particularly true when the incident takes place beyond the jurisdiction where the officer works. At the same time, off-duty police officers who commit abuses frequently enjoy the protection of colleagues from their own and other forces. As of this writing, police forces around the country are grappling with, and in some cases opposing, implementation of new federal legislation prohibiting anyone, including police officers, with misdemeanor or felony convictions relating to domestic violence from carrying a gun or ammunition, thus requiring desk duty, and, in practice, dismissal for those officers.114

    Go to the link to read more…

  32. Doug Paul Davis

    Very interesting report from Human Rights Watch (1998):

    http://www.hrw.org/reports98/police/uspo25.htm

    Internal Affairs Units

    Internal affairs divisions are at the center of any examination of how police departments deal with human rights abuses committed by officers. It is alarming, therefore, that no outside review, including our own, has found the operations of internal affairs divisions in any of the major U.S. cities satisfactory.107 In each city we examined, internal affairs units conducted substandard investigations, sustained few allegations of excessive force, and failed to identify, or deal appropriately with, problem officers against whom repeated complaints had been filed. In many cases, sloppy procedures and an apparent bias in favor of fellow officers combine to guarantee that even the most brutal police avoid punishment for serious violations until committing an abuse that is so flagrant, so unavoidably embarrassing, that it cannot be ignored. Since oversight commissions and journalistic investigations have found that a small percentage of officers are responsible for large percentages of abuses, this failure to identify and punish repeat offenders is evidently at the hub of the problem.

    The workings of internal affairs divisions are cloaked in excessive secrecy: information about their operations is only disclosed in incomplete and occasional fashion through investigative newspaper articles, books, and special commission studies on police departments, usually following major scandals. Otherwise, the public is prevented from participating in, or even knowing about, the way police officers patrolling their streets are dealt with when they commit abuses. While police representatives claim privacy issues are the reason for protecting information about investigations or disciplinary hearings, police departments also resist providing information even when relevant names and other identifying information are excised. Observers are left wondering why no information is disclosed to support the contention that the police are policing themselves.

    The few occasions the public has been allowed a glimpse of the inner workings of police departments in the 1990s have given cause for alarm. All of the three commissions reviewing police misconduct in major cities since 1991 (in Boston, LosAngeles, and New York) found serious shortcomings in the way internal affairs divisions handled complaints. In other cities (including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, and New Orleans), investigative reporters and police abuse experts have also concluded that internal investigations were not being conducted properly.

    After reviewing 250 internal-affairs division cases, the St. Clair Commission in Boston concluded that the division was sustaining an abnormally low number of complaints:

    Our investigation into the Department’s handling of citizen complaints of police misconduct…was particularly troubling. Our study revealed an investigative and hearing process characterized by shoddy, halfhearted investigations, lengthy delays, and inadequate documentation and record-keeping. The present Internal Affairs process is unfairly skewed against those bringing a complaint. Given the Internal Affairs Division’s (“IAD”) failure to routinely provide thorough and timely investigations of alleged misconduct, and the fact that the department sustains less than 6% of complaints against officers, it is no surprise that the overwhelming majority of community residents we spoke to have little confidence in the department’s ability or willingness to police itself….108

    The Christopher Commission in Los Angeles found that the Internal Affairs Division (IAD) of the LAPD had sustained only 2 percent of the excessive force complaints and stated: “Our study indicates that there are significant problems with the initiation, investigation, and classification of complaints.” It called the IAD investigations “unfairly skewed against the complainant.”109

    When Temple University police abuse expert Prof. James J. Fyfe reviewed Philadelphia’s internal affairs unit’s files, he found documents missing and the files generally in disarray. The Philadelphia Inquirer has published many in-depth investigative reports finding the Internal Affairs Division’s work seriously flawed. In 1997, one monitor found Philadelphia’s internal affairs files reflected thorough investigations, while attorneys who were allowed to view some internal affairs records as part of a court-monitored agreement with the city found “significant shortcomings in too many of the investigative files that we reviewed,” and that IAD investigators were “justifying the officers’ actions where an independent analysiswould find misconduct.”110 When a San Francisco Examiner reporter reviewed the San Francisco Police Department’s internal affairs unit’s record on police shootings, he found that internal investigations were seriously botched, allowing officers to avoid disciplinary sanctions or prosecution.111 The Internal Affairs Division of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., is unable to account for case files it received from the now-abolished review board. When the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was able to obtain Internal Affairs Division files of that city’s police force, after a lengthy delay, and reviewed the “contents list” in those files, it found that key items listed were missing.

    In New Orleans, an attorney who represents victims of police abuse obtained internal affairs files and found them disorganized; she also found that the department was using an incorrect standard of proof in deciding whether to sustain complaints – the criminal “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, instead of “preponderance of the evidence,” which is the generally accepted standard for internal inquiries.112 The records showed a sustained rate of about 1 to 2 percent for excessive force complaints filed against officers by civilians, with the sustained rate for officer-reported complaints a bit higher.113

    Although off-duty conduct is not the focus of this study, we note that in the cities examined, off-duty criminal or violent behavior, particularly abuses that take place while officers “moonlight” as security guards in their off-hours, are not sufficiently monitored by internal affairs units. Police officers who become involved in altercations, bar fights, or domestic violence escape appropriate scrutiny due to poor tracking by internal affairs units. This is particularly true when the incident takes place beyond the jurisdiction where the officer works. At the same time, off-duty police officers who commit abuses frequently enjoy the protection of colleagues from their own and other forces. As of this writing, police forces around the country are grappling with, and in some cases opposing, implementation of new federal legislation prohibiting anyone, including police officers, with misdemeanor or felony convictions relating to domestic violence from carrying a gun or ammunition, thus requiring desk duty, and, in practice, dismissal for those officers.114

    Go to the link to read more…

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