The Role of Internal Affairs in Police Training

By Webber, Nelson O., Jr. | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, December 1992 | Go to article overview

The Role of Internal Affairs in Police Training


Webber, Nelson O., Jr., The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin


What can police departments do to prevent incidents of police misconduct that could expose them to local, or even national, media attention? Quite possibly, the answer may be found in an agency's internal affairs unit. Unfortunately, many police departments view their internal affairs units solely as administrative enforcers of departmental rules and regulations. And, even though the unit's primary function is to investigate allegations of police misconduct, many chiefs of police fail to recognize the potentially immense training value of this function.

This article discusses internal affairs investigations and explores some of the opportunities that various types of internal affairs training could provide. Because the resolution of a complaint against a police department and its employees could have a negative effect, law enforcement agencies should examine how the results of internal affairs investigations could help their employees to better serve the department and citizens.

Internal Affairs Investigations

Properly conducted internal affairs investigations go beyond a finding of right or wrong, or one that is justified or not justified. They also include comprehensive and ongoing reviews of the affected policy to ensure that it conforms to contemporary law enforcement standards, court rulings, and current agency needs. However, a comprehensive internal affairs investigation may also include a review of the department's training procedures regarding matters under investigation. For example, officer misconduct often results from a lack of knowledge or a misunderstanding of departmental policy and/or procedure. Supplemental training could reduce or possibly eliminate further incidents among other officers in the department.

The internal affairs unit is also an important resource to identify trends in individual and group behavior and attitudes. Oftentimes, as in a puzzle, an individual case or part has little or no meaning. However, once several components are viewed together, a clearer picture appears. In this regard, internal affairs units should consider conducting an annual analysis of all citizen complaints and police use of force. Such an analysis helps to identify the common denominators in complaints and use of force reports.

In turn, with analytical findings, departments can identify training needs in such areas as policy and procedure, tactics, sensitivity/cultural awareness, and supervisory responsibility. Or, department managers can track positive trends, such as changes in employee behavior that result from training initiated after an internal affairs review.

Internal Affairs and the Training Process

Undoubtedly, positive police/ community relations require proper training. As a testament to this, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA) adopted numerous training standards as part of its comprehensive accreditation program. One standard identified the importance of departmentwide input in the development and evaluation of training needs and concerns.(1)

With this in mind, law enforcement departments should include members of their internal affairs units in the training process. Smaller departments that do not have separate internal affairs units should allow those officers who normally conduct internal affairs investigations to participate. The insights these individuals offer may help to identify future training needs.

Recruit Training

In a model policy statement, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) suggested that police ethics should be a major component in the training curricula, as should an indepth examination of the rules, procedures, and outcomes of the disciplinary process.(2) As such, it seems appropriate for internal affairs personnel to participate in the recruit training program.

Police departments should allow sufficient time for investigators to instruct recruits as to their duties and responsibilities, as well as to inform them of departmental policies and procedures concerning complaints of alleged misconduct. …

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