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Internal Investigations

Abstract This chapter outlines twenty-two criteria for good internal investigations. The criteria include the competence, resilience, open-mindedness and independence of the investigator, and the investigation being well-planned, thorough and conducted under conditions under which information/evidence is secure and the rights of suspects and witnesses are respected. I also discuss the need for the judicious use of covert methods and the importance of best practice informant management.

Historically, the quality of police investigations of police corruption and misconduct has been poor. Numerous police commissions in the United States (Knapp 1972; Mollen 1994), Australia (Wood 1996), and elsewhere have found major deficiencies when police investigate police. The deficiencies identified have included inadequate planning of investigations, inadequate use of electronic surveillance, failure to interview key witnesses, breaches of confidentiality, and lack of timeliness. A 2001 study of New South Wales (Australia) police internal investigations into serious drug-related police corruption identified a variety of systemic issues (Ratcliffe et al. 2005). The overall quality of internal investigations was poor and there were too many investigations. There was an emphasis on bureaucratic processing of complaints at the expense of quality-driven investigations.

An important preliminary step to take in relation to improving the quality of internal affairs investigations is to determine what counts as a good investigation, that is, what constitute the criteria for quality in this area. On the one hand, there is very little in the policing literature on standards for internal investigations. On the other hand, there are various performance indicators in the wider literature on policing that could be applied to internal affairs investigations (Prenzler 2009; Ivkovic and Haberfeld 2015).[1] Here I stress that performance indicators are themselves problematic in various ways. Performance indicators and numerical measures including statistics, in particular, in and of themselves should not dictate evaluations let alon policy decisions. In the first place, performance indicators are merely indicators and ought to be merely one instrument in the hands of police leaders making professional judgments. Performance indicators are not ends in themselves nor are they constitutive of performance, although they have a tendency to become so, e.g. the number of complaints of misconduct against an officer is taken to be equivalent to the officer’s extent of misconduct. In the second place, performance indicators need to be interpreted—including in respect of their veracity—and ought not to be taken at face value. Such interpretation typically requires the exercise of professional judgment.

This chapter focuses on criteria for quality in internal police investigations, bearing in mind the distinction between a criterion of quality and a numerical measure of the extent to which that criterion has been met (Miller 2010).[2] In particular, this chapter offers a relatively comprehensive set of criteria for quality in police investigations by professional standards units. Although many of these are straightforward—indeed, obvious—they are rarely brought to bear specifically on internal investigations.

  • [1] The professional standards department of the New South Wales Police has developed a set ofcriteria for the quality of internal investigations and I have made use of a number of these criteriain this article. Professional Standards Department (2001). © The Author(s) 2016 81 S. Miller, Corruption and Anti-Corruption in Policing—Philosophical and Ethical Issues, SpringerBriefs in Ethics, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-46991-1_6
  • [2] An earlier version of the material in this chapter appeared in Miller (2010).
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