Investigators with municipal police departments, sheriff offices and school district police were trained in basic internal affairs protocol at the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas.
The two-day program provided a primer on Internal Affairs, including legal issues, strengths and weaknesses, investigative principles and tactics, how to format an internal investigation and case studies and scenarios.
"We need internal affairs not only to protect the community, but to protect our troops," said Chief David M. Barber of the Hedwig Village Police Department, who presented the program. "We do what we can to police ourselves."
The LEMIT training was set up in response to requests from local departments.
"We had been asked by several officers when we might run another course, and we realized that the need was there," said Mikal Sieger, program coordinator from LEMIT.
Among the most common complaints against officers in internal affair investigations are alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, financial difficulties, rudeness, extra employment, untruthfulness during an investigation and use of force. Police often get caught up in issues because of the discretion they are given, the police subculture, opportunity, and department policies, Barber said.
Good internal affairs policies articulate the objectives and priorities of the department, define acceptable behavior and establish administrative practices.
While Texas is an at-will employment state, it is vital to provide limited due process to police accused of administrative or criminal violations to preserve certain constitutional and statutory protections, Barber said. Some departments also have collective bargaining, contracts or civil service regulations that govern the process.
To set up an effective Internal Affairs system, departments should consider several key principals. These include:
- to separate administrative and criminal investigations
- to provide for administrative due process
- to establish administrative orders to gather relevant information
- to create an administrative leave policy
- to determine a burden of proof standard
- to establish a statement format that will be used in the process
- to ensure criminal due process
- to develop a system to track and manage cases
- to decide the levels of review in internal affairs cases
- to develop a policy that lays out all the tenets of the process
The training also provided insight into investigative tactics that could be used to get to the truth. These include dispatch tapes, in-car videos, offense reports, forms, mobile data terminal printouts, medical report, internal reports and interviews with complainants, citizen and agency witnesses and the employee. The training offered case studies and various scenarios to help officers better understand the process.
Established at Sam Houston State University in 1993, LEMIT provides training to develop the administrative, analytical and executive skills of current and future law enforcement officials in the state.