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A Guide to Internal Affairs Investigations in California

May 30, 2022 Federal Criminal Attorneys

The purpose of an internal affairs investigation is to determine whether an officer has violated any laws or department policies. These investigations are typically conducted by the agency’s internal affairs unit, but may also be conducted by an outside agency, such as a police department’s Office of Professional Standards.

Internal affairs investigations can be triggered by a variety of things, including citizen complaints, tips from other officers, and evidence uncovered during unrelated criminal investigations. Once an investigation is opened, it will typically involve interviews with witnesses and the collection of physical evidence. The results of the investigation will then be used to determine whether or not disciplinary action is warranted.

In some cases, internal affairs investigations can lead to criminal charges being filed against an officer. However, even if criminal charges are not filed, an officer who is found to have violated department policies can face disciplinary action, up to and including termination from the force.

Internal affairs investigations are an important part of ensuring that police officers are held accountable for their actions. These investigations help to maintain public trust in the police force and ensure that officers who break the law are punished.

If you believe that you have been the victim of police misconduct, you should contact your local police department’s internal affairs unit to file a complaint.

Administrative vs Criminal Internal Affairs Investigations

  •  Criminal investigations focus on whether an officer has committed a crime.
  • Administrative investigations are conducted by the agency that employs the officer, while criminal investigations are conducted by independent law enforcement agencies.
  • Administrative investigations may result in disciplinary action against an officer, but criminal investigations may result in charges being filed against an officer.
  • Administrative investigations are typically initiated by the officer’s supervisor, while criminal investigations are typically initiated by a victim or witness.
  • Administrative investigations are typically conducted without the involvement of an attorney, while criminal investigations are typically conducted with the involvement of an attorney.
  • Administrative investigations typically focus on the officer’s conduct, while criminal investigations typically focus on the victim’s or witness’ statements.
  • Administrative investigations are typically conducted to determine if an officer violated department policy, while criminal investigations are conducted to determine if an officer committed a crime.
  • Administrative investigations typically result in the officer being disciplined by the department, while criminal investigations typically result in the officer being charged with a crime.

Internal Affairs Investigations By Other Agencies

The officer’s employing agency will conduct an administrative investigation. The purpose of this investigation is to determine if the officer violated any department policies or procedures. If the officer is found to have violated a policy, he/she may be subject to disciplinary action by the department.

If there are allegations of criminal misconduct, another entity will conduct a criminal investigation. This could be done by an internal affairs division within the police department, or it could be conducted by an outside agency such as a district attorney’s office or state police. If criminal charges are filed against the officer as a result of this investigation, he/she will have to defend themselves in court.

There might also be an independent review conducted by a civilian oversight board or commission. The purpose of this type of review would be to provide transparency and accountability in cases where there are allegations of misconduct against police officers.

What is POBRA?

POBRA requires that an officer be given reasonable notice of the investigation, including the names of complainants and witnesses. The officer must also be given a copy of the complaint and any other evidence to be used against him or her.

The law also requires that an officer have a right to counsel during questioning, and that questions not be asked in a coercive manner. An officer has the right to review all evidence gathered against him or her before being asked questions about it, and has the right to have counsel present during questioning.

POBRA does not apply when an administrative investigation is conducted by criminal investigators from another agency – for example, when an internal affairs investigator from one police department interviews officers from another police department who are suspected of criminal conduct. POBRA also does not apply when officers are interviewed as part of a criminal investigation conducted by prosecutors or law enforcement agencies other than their own departments.



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