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Internal Affairs: Issues for Small Police Departments

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 72 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2003 Pages: 1-6
Sean F. Kelly
Date Published
July 2003
6 pages
The policies and procedures of the Durham Police Department (New Hampshire) are described as an example of how a small police department can address internal investigations of complaints against officers.
Although large police agencies may have a separate unit or division within the department to handle internal-affairs investigations, small agencies must address complaints against officers with limited personnel resources. The Durham Police Department, which currently has 18 full-time sworn officers, attempts to limit the number of internal investigations by providing officers with well-written policies that clearly specify how its officers should conduct themselves. Mission and values statements delineate the department's goals and objectives, and officers must learn and follow a strong code of ethics. When complaints are lodged against officers, the investigative process is designed to ensure a fair and impartial evaluation of the complaint. In a small agency, the closeness of its members makes a serious complaint difficult to investigate. Finding an objective investigator within the agency may prove impossible. In some cases, it may be appropriate to invite an outside agency -- such as the local sheriff's department, State police, or district attorney's office -- to conduct the investigation. Regardless of the action taken, assigned investigators must apply investigative skills and practices and have ample time to complete their investigation. Small agencies that have few resources could find that other tasks normally assigned to investigating officers may suffer. For the betterment of the agency, however, it is critical to allow investigators the time and resources to fully develop a case. This article details the investigative procedure as it discusses subject notification, investigator selection, investigation type, and investigation findings. 7 notes