Independent Police Auditor Notes Lag in Internal Affairs Investigations
Posted by Comments (4)on Friday, April 13, 2012
The office of the Independent Police Auditor, led by retired judge LaDoris Cordell, conducted “unprecedented outreach” in 2011, according to its annual report released this week. As a result, the office received a 26 percent increase in the amount of complaints filed against the San Jose Police Department compared to a year prior.
Of the 355 total cases the IPA received in 2011, almost 30 percent—104 cases—came out of downtown’s District 3.
The report included 30 recommendations, which included: documenting the race/ethnicity of individuals directed by officers to sit on street curbs; adopting a policy to prevent officers from accessing criminal histories unless for official police business; and equipping officers with state-of-the-art cameras to record interactions with the public.
The time it takes for a complaint to go from the IPA receiving it, passing it to Internal Affairs and the IA investigation being completed and returned to the IPA in a timely manner continues to be an issue, the report says.
In 2011, IA closed just 22, or 9 percent, of the 246 cases that IA had more than a year to review, basically “rendering the IPA audit meaningless,” according to the report. This was almost double the rate of cases in 2010.
The IPA recommends IA close investigations within 300 days so that auditors will have at least 65 days to conduct a review. If a complaint is sustained, any discipline against an officer can only be imposed within a year timeframe, making timeliness key.
The reason for IA’s lag time, the IPA office says, is caused by consistent turnover within the office, which often brings in personnel that is not trained to carry out the specialized duties of IA.
“The Internal Affairs Unit is staffed by sworn officers: one Lieutenant, nine Sergeants, and five Officers, each of whom is assigned to IA for a two year rotation,” the report states. “These officers do not receive training at the Police Academy to prepare them for assignments in IA. Subsequent SJPD assignments or rotations fail to provide these officers with any experience in conducting internal investigations on fellow officers. It is only when officers are assigned to IA that they are trained about the IA process.”
To address this, the IPA recommended convening IPA-IA training sessions. But Independent Police Auditor LaDoris Cordell says IA might be better served by assigning its duties to retired judges and attorneys. “You don’t need a gun to be in Internal Affairs,” she told the Mercury News.
The report did note a much better working relationship between the auditor’s office and IA as well as with Police Chief Chris Moore and his staff.
From 1993 to 2009, the IPA recommended 109 suggestions to improve SJPD policies and procedures. The office followed up on those recommendations in this latest report and found that 85, or 78 percent, had been adopted.
Click to read the 2011 IPA Report.
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