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Is It an Inside Job?: An Examination of Internal Affairs Complaint Investigation Files and the Production of Nonsustained Findings

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Policy Review Volume: 18 Issue: 4 Dated: December 2007 Pages: 353-377
John Liederbach; Lorenzo M. Boyd; Robert W. Taylor; Soraya K. Kawucha
Date Published
December 2007
25 pages
Utilizing information derived from an examination of Internal Affairs complaint investigation files obtained from a midwestern police agency, this study examined issues related to the processing of complaints against the police.
The most significant finding relates to the extremely high nonsustained rate for citizen-initiated complaints. Only 3 of the 180 citizen-initiated complaints (or 1.6 percent) were sustained. The process of internal complaint review in Midwest City appears to be similar in some other respects to those that have been the focus of previous literature. Commonalities aside, the direct examination of investigation files did provide systematic data that this line of research has previously lacked. Specifically, the files provided information concerning why investigators failed to sustain almost all of the citizen complaints. The complainant retracted his or her initial allegation, could not be located, or failed to followup with investigators in over one-fourth or 27.2 percent of all the nonsustained citizen-initiated complaints. After repeated calls, investigators cited noncooperation as the primary justification. In the popular jargon, an inside job refers to a crime committed by a trusted individual within an organization that is often perpetrated by a covert alliance or conspiracy. The jargon is used in this article as a means to convey the conclusion drawn by many special commissions and journalistic accounts that have characterized the internal processing of complaints by police as an inside job. The purpose of this study was to contribute to the existing research regarding the internal review of complaints against the police through a direct examination of complaint investigation files. The study processed several points of discussion, as well as recommendations. Tables, notes, references