If you have watched a TV cop show you have probably heard the term Internal Affairs. In the case of the sheriff’s office, it is the deputies assigned to investigate the allegations of wrong doing by any employee of the sheriff’s office. However, before I allow a deputy to investigate an employee they must have additional training. IA investigators at this office are required to attend a specialized school held at the Institute for Law Enforcement Administration. This is located on the campus of the Center for American and International Law in Plano. (Check out their website)
Generally an internal administrative investigation, or IA, is generated when a member of the public makes an allegation of wrong doing by one of our employees. But, an IA may also be conducted when a supervisory employee has reason to believe an employee has violated policy or code of conduct.
When an IA is started the chief deputy will decide if the reported allegation warrants some type of temporary status change of the employee. Depending upon the circumstances of the allegation, the employee may continue in their current assignment, be assigned to “desk duty” or sometimes the employee may have their credentials suspended and instructed to remain at a specific location during normal duty hours so they are readily available to the IA investigator. This temporary status may remain in effect until completion of the investigation.
As the allegation is being investigated we sometimes find it necessary to have a polygraph exam administered. However, in a citizen generated complaint leading to an investigation, the citizen must take and pass the exam prior to the employee being required to. Also, let’s remember, an internal investigation is an administrative action and not a criminal action. Because of this the results of a polygraph can be considered when determining if the employee violated policy or code of conduct.
We are all familiar with the term Miranda Warning. This pertains to a persons’ constitutional rights not to self incriminate. Since an IA is an administrative function and not a criminal action, the employee is given what is known in the law enforcement circles as a Garrity Warning. Once Garrity is given the employee can be ordered to answer questions about the allegation. Failure to answer legitimate questions can lead to immediate termination.
Sometimes an employee may be accused of conduct that is not only an administrative violation but also a criminal violation. In these cases the IA must be conducted separate from the criminal investigation. One team will work on the criminal and another on the internal. When this occurs, anything the criminal investigation reveals can be given or shared with the internal investigation but nothing elicited from the employee protected under Garrity can be shared with the criminal investigation.
Now let’s fast forward. The internal is completed, the investigator has documented there are policy and/or code of conduct violations and now a decision must be made regarding the employee. In a criminal case we know the person can only be found guilty when done so beyond a reasonable doubt. However, in an administrative action the decision level is only a preponderance of the evidence.
The sheriff’s office takes pride in “keeping a clean house” but if you feel one of our employees have committed an inappropriate act, please give us a call and ask for the captain over internal affairs.
Johnny Brown has served as Sheriff of Ellis County since Jan. 1, 2009, and is a graduate of the National Sheriff’s Institute. He has been in law enforcement for 20 years and holds a Master’s Peace Officer’s Certificate with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education.