Effectiveness Of Internal Affairs
The office of internal affairs is a division of law enforcement agency that investigates incidents and reasonable suspicion of professional misconduct and lawbreaking among officers in the force. Actually, Internal affairs is responsible for ensuring compliance with policies related to misconduct, corruption, mismanagement, integrity, and management of inspection programs. As such, the department must ensure that its members upholds high ethical standards and cultivate public trust for it to perform its duties effectively.
There has been community perception that internal affairs agency is biased in favor of law enforcement officers. This has raised questions on the agency is effective in conducting its duties.
Internal affairs, as part of law enforcement agency hold its members accountable for their deeds and impose high standards of conducts among its staff to enhance professionalism in their duty. However, the internal affairs is not free of internal problems. While large law enforcement agencies have separate division to handle such matters, the duties of internal affairs in small agencies is mostly limited due to unavailability of sufficient resources in their possession. Lack of enough resources in carrying out its duties is one of the greatest obstructions to the effectiveness of internal affairs department (Cole &Christopher, 2006).
Internal affairs officers are required to adhere to a strong code of ethics required in investigative process to ensure impartial and fair evaluation of the raised complaint. This is imperative in ensuring that internal affairs investigations are handled in a judicious and sensitive manner to serve the employees and community well. This has been a major challenge to the function of internal affairs. Internal affairs unit receives and investigates complaints against officer whose end result may be dismissal, resignation or suspension. This might be stressful to internal affairs officers as the status prevents them from developing a good relationship with other officers. This problem might be bigger where the officers know each and so to avoid conflicts, their verdict on a given matter is mostly biased in favor of their fellow officers. Failure to adhere to codes of conduct in fair and impartial investigation renders internal affairs department ineffective (Neocleous, 2004).
Public support and trust is essential for the functioning of internal affairs because it is members of the public who raise the complaints. In some cases, when members of the public raise complaints, internal investigators assume that the complaints are an attack against the police as a whole and so they try to protect their fellow officers against the complaints. As a result, the administrators of internal affairs do not get information about the complaints and so correction measures are not taken. Due to inaction by internal affairs, the public develop a perception that the department condones the actions which they complain of and that raising complaints is pointless. Because of this, the public do not report misconducts of the police to the internal affairs department and seek for other avenues such as courts and this renders the department ineffective (Walsh &Hemmens, 2008).
The function of internal affairs must be fair to both the complainant and the accused. The investigations should reach a conclusion by analyzing the evidence provided. The conclusion for an allegation may be exonerated where the incidence took place but the police officer’s actions were lawful, unfounded where the complainant admits to making allegations that were untrue, not sustained where there is insufficient evidence to disapprove or approve an allegation, and sustained where there is evidence that indeed the employee committed the alleged acts. The verdict must be fair. If the investigation finds that the complainant accused the police officer falsely, the agency has an obligation of filing criminal complaint against the accuser. Many agencies chose not to initiate criminal actions against the complainant for fear of discouraging citizens from informing them of future violations by police officers thus impeding the role of internal affairs (Cole &Christopher, 2006).
Another factor that makes the internal affairs department ineffective is lack of enough manpower to handle investigation work. Most of the officers do not have sufficient knowledge of criminal law, which hinders quality investigation and handing of verdict for the alleged actions (Walsh &Hemmens, 2008).
In order to improve the effectiveness of the internal affairs department, bold steps need to be taken to ensure that high ethical standards are maintained, public confidence is built and that there is creation of awareness to minimize the perception that the police force is attacked when members of the public complain about their misconduct An agency needs to have a clearly stated mission which describes its goals. The employees of the agency should receive a copy of the mission statement; periodic training while the administrator should review the mission statements to establish a continued validity. Law enforcement agencies should ensure that their members are accountable for their actions by imposing high standards of conducts for its staff, so that they can achieve the important aspects of professionalism consistently. Small agencies which are characterized by limited resources should come up with ways of addressing the problems (Neocleous, 2004).
Employees should be protected against false allegations of bad conduct. Although it is demoralizing to expose employees to investigations, employees can only be protected if investigation is thorough, complete, conducted in a timely manner and must support officer’s integrity and honesty. In case of false accusations against the police officer, legal proceeding must be instituted against the complainant. This should be aimed at ensuring that the functioning of internal affairs is as fair as possible (Walsh &Hemmens, 2008).
Unfit personnel should be removed to enhance the integrity of the department. Some internal affairs personnel who fail to take actions against the complaints raised by the public should be relieved of their duties. Some personnel may feel that public complains are attack against the law enforcement agency and so they may fail to act against the complaints while others may protect their fellow officers rendering the duty of internals affairs ineffective. Recruitment of personnel in internal affairs should be based on merit where people with high educational background on legal and social matters should be given high priority (Cole &Christopher, 2006).
There should be correction of procedural problems. The internal affairs department should seek to improve its personnel and efficiency. Internal affairs department should be in a position to discover and disclose faulty procedures. This can only be achieved if the personnel are trained on new trends of legal and ethical issues related to criminal and civil justice (Walsh &Hemmens, 2008).
In conclusion, internal affairs is judged and evaluated by actions of its individual members. If the department performs its roles of investigation and adjudication fairly and honestly, members of the public will gain trust thus improving its effectiveness of internal affairs. Furthermore the government should allocate enough resource to the department to ensure its smooth running.
Cole, F.G. & Christopher, E.S. (2006).Criminal justice in America. New York: Routledge
Walsh,A.,& Hemmens,C.(2008).Law, justice, and society. A sociolegal introduction. New York:
Oxford university press.
Neocleous, M. (2004). Fabricating Social Order: A Critical History of Police Power. London: