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Internal affairs departments police law enforcement and those who guard jails and prisons. Agents in internal affairs probe complaints, often from citizens or prisoners, of officer misconduct. Those who fill these positions are charged with improving police services, encouraging efficient operations of police departments and corrections facilities and promoting trust among the public.
An internal affairs officer must know and follow legal requirements for investigating alleged misconduct by officers for criminal or administrative purposes. For instance, if the department or agency contemplates criminal charges, the investigator may not force the employee to incriminate herself. When the investigation is administrative, internal affairs can make the employee talk, but the statements are used only for discipline and not for prosecution. Police and justice academies offer training and courses in due process and other required subjects for criminal and administrative investigations by internal affairs departments.
Ethics and People Skills
In internal affairs work, fairness and objectivity must reign over loyalties, bias and desire for popularity. Investigators must act ethically in the face of controversial and sometimes high-profile cases and balance competing interests of stakeholders. Findings in investigations may cost police or corrections officers their jobs or reputations; investigators often interact with representatives of police unions or attorneys safeguarding the investigated officers’ rights. To build and maintain trust, especially among ethnic communities, police departments may seek internal affairs employees with fluency in foreign languages.
Getting Outside the Office
Internal affairs investigators are not tied to a desk and chair. They may need to visit incident scenes to gather evidence, interview witnesses and, in the case of investigators in corrections agencies, go to prisons. Therefore, a valid driver's license is indispensable to internal affairs jobs. Internal affairs investigators in prison agencies must interview prisoners and typically face hostile surroundings. The spontaneity and unpredictability of crimes and officer incidents create the potential for working late hours and weekends.
Law enforcement department heads, disciplinary committees, prosecutors and juries use the information gleaned from internal affairs investigations. Investigators must keep detailed and organized records and prepare comprehensive reports of their work and findings. Required skills may include word processing, using digital voice recorders, organization and testifying; investigators must know the rules for testifying in court and administrative hearings.
Education and Experience
Generally, internal affairs departments seek college graduates in criminal justice-related disciplines or from social service fields such as psychology, sociology and social work. Some agencies accept candidates without a college degree, but who have logged extensive time in police or corrections work. Internal affairs officers should have experience investigating employee misbehavior or criminal activity.
- Oklahoma Office of Personnel Management: Internal Affairs Special Investigator --Department of Corrections
- Michigan Civl Service Commission: Job Specification -- Corrections Internal Affairs Officers
- New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice: Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures
- City of Portland: Police Internal Affairs Investigators
- North Carolina Justice Academy: Internal Affairs Investigations #5218
- City of Virginia Beach: Police: Office of Internal Affairs
- City of Mesa (Arizona): Police: Administration: Internal Affairs Investigator/Polygrapher -- Sworn
- Riverside Sheriff's Association: Ten Rules of Engagement in the Internal Investigatory and Disciplinary Process
- National Internal Affairs Investigators Association: Membership
- Virginia Police Foundation: Internal Affairs Manual
Christopher Raines enjoys sharing his knowledge of business, financial matters and the law. He earned his business administration and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a lawyer since August 1996, Raines has handled cases involving business, consumer and other areas of the law.