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POLICING THE POLICE - PROBLEMS AND PERSPECTIVES

NCJ Number
54406
Journal
Journal of Police Science and Administration Volume: 3 Issue: 2 Dated: (JUNE 1975) Pages: 125-135
Author(s)
J H CULVER
Date Published
1975
Length
11 pages
Annotation
COMPLAINTS AND DISPOSITIONS HANDLED BY THE INTERNAL AFFAIRS DIVISION IN THE POLICE DEPARTMENT OF A CITY IN THE SOUTHWESTERN UNITED STATES, AS RELATED TO POLICE MISCONDUCT, ARE EXAMINED.
Abstract
TWO OBJECTIVES CAN BE ATTAINED IN THE DISPOSITION OF COMPLAINTS ABOUT POLICE MISCONDUCT: (1) SATISFYING THE PUBLIC AND PROTECTING THE POLICE DEPARTMENT FROM POLITICAL INTERFERENCE, AND (2) SOCIALIZING OTHER POLICE OFFICERS ABOUT PERMISSIBLE AND IMPERMISSIBLE CONDUCT. CITIZEN COMPLAINTS CAN ALSO BE REGARDED AS INDICATORS OF ORGANIZATIONAL PROBLEMS WITHIN THE POLICE DEPARTMENT AND THUS AS POTENTIAL VEHICLES FOR POLICY CHANGE. IN THE CITY DISCUSSED IN THE ARTICLE, WITH A POPULATION OF ABOUT 300,000, RECORDS OF THE POLICE DEPARTMENT'S INTERNAL AFFAIRS DIVISION SERVED AS THE PRIMARY SOURCE OF DATA FOR STUDY. THE POLICE FILE OF THE MAJOR DAILY NEWSPAPER WAS ALSO EMPLOYED TO OBTAIN INFORMATION ABOUT CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING SOME INCIDENTS OF POLICE MISCONDUCT. THE STUDY COVERED THE PERIOD FROM JUNE 1971, WHEN THE INTERNAL AFFAIRS DIVISION WAS CREATED, TO JUNE 1973. POLICE RECORDS USED IN THE STUDY COVERED THE PERIOD FROM JULY 1972 TO JUNE 1973. AFTER INVESTIGATING AN ALLEGED ACT OF POLICE MISCONDUCT, THE COMPLAINT CAN BE DISPOSED OF BY THE INTERNAL AFFAIRS DIVISION IN ONE OF FIVE WAYS: UNFOUNDED, EXONERATED, NOT SUSTAINED, SUSTAINED, AND TO SHIFT. OF 40 SUSTAINED COMPLAINTS DURING THE 1971 PERIOD, 12 OFFICERS RECEIVED VERBAL REPRIMANDS FROM SUPERIOR OFFICERS, 3 RECEIVED WRITTEN REPRIMANDS, 12 OFFICERS WERE SUSPENDED FROM 1 DAY TO 2 MONTHS, 1 OFFICER WAS DEMOTED, 1 OFFICER WAS DISMISSED, 4 QUIT, 3 RECEIVED CHANGES IN ASSIGNMENT, AND 4 WERE ORDERED TO CHANGE A WRITTEN REPORT. OF ALL COMPLAINTS, 84 PERCENT WERE DISMISSED. THE TWO MOST FREQUENT COMPLAINTS WERE ABOUT ATTITUDE AND FORCE AND ACCOUNTED FOR 60 PERCENT OF ALL CITIZEN COMPLAINTS. NEGLECT OF DUTY COMPLAINTS WERE PREDOMINANTLY DEPARTMENT-ORIENTED. IN 1972, 133 COMPLAINTS WERE RECORDED AGAINST ONDUTY POLICE OFFICERS AND 15 AGAINST OFF-DUTY POLICE OFFICERS. ALMOST HALF OF THESE COMPLAINTS WERE SUSTAINED. COMPLAINTS IN GENERAL FOR THIS YEAR CONCERNED FORCE, PROCEDURES, ATTITUDES, MISHANDLING PROPERTY, DISHONESTY, PERSONAL CONDUCT, HARASSMENT, SEARCH, THREAT, INEFFICIENCY AND INCOMPETENCE, FALSE ARREST, NEGLECT OF DUTY, PROPERTY DAMAGE, POOR JUDGMENT, AND NEGLIGENT USE OF A GUN. DATA FROM THE STUDY ARE COMPARED WITH INFORMATION OBTAINED ON POLICE MISCONDUCT AND INVESTIGATION OF COMPLAINTS IN OTHER CITIES. THE ISSUE OF INTERNAL VERSUS EXTERNAL CONTROL OVER POLICE IS DISCUSSED. SUPPORTING STUDY DATA ARE TABULATED. (DEP)