Denver Police Department, Police Discipline Handbook
The Denver Police Department Discipline Handbook is a model of openness and transparency regarding their disciplinary process. Available to the public on the web, the Handbook not only describes the process in detail but articulates the department’s philosophy regarding standards of conduct for officers.
Because inconsistency and unfairness have been long-standing controversies, see in particular Section 3 of the Handbook on consistency and Section 12 on the department’s Discipline Matrix.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg (North Carolina), Internal Affairs Guidebook
Employee Conduct: Investigations and Discipline (2005)
The Guidebook is an admirable statement of how a department should respond to citizen complaints. In particular, see the discussion of “learning from complaints” on p. 3. The emerging paradigm regarding citizen complaints is that even though most complaints are not sustained, they serve as valuable information about citizen perceptions of officer conduct.
Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Respect-based Discipline and Education-based Discipline
The historic problem with police discipline procedures is that they have been entirely “punishment centered,” with no constructive aspects that might help improve officer conduct. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has been experimenting with innovative respect-based and education-based disciplinary procedures.
Read the report of the LASD Office of Independent Review (OIR) on these new procedures.
LASD, Office of Independent Review, 7th Annual Report, pp. 30-34
Reducing Citizen Complaints Through Policy Review in Washington, DC.
The new paradigm of citizen oversight of the police is involves identifying the causes of certain types of complaints and changing policies or practices to correct the underlying problem.
(See the discussions of policy review in Police Accountability and The New World of Police Accountability.
The Office of Police Complaints in Washington, DC made effective use of policy review regarding bicycle licenses. The city used to require licenses for all bicycles, but in practice, police officers enforced the ordinance selectively, particularly against African Americans.
The OPC recommended that the city simply repeal the ordinance and take this pretext for harassment away from police officers. Read the OPC report on Pretextual Stops of Bicyclists, and other policy recommendations.
investigations and issued reports on issues needing attention (see respect-based discipline, above).
The Role of the police auditor model in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department: the Special Counsel and the Office of Independent Review
Many experts believe that the auditor model is the best form of citizen oversight of the police. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has two forms of oversight.
Since 1993, the Special Counsel to the LASD has issued 28 Semiannual Reports, covering almost every aspect of the department. Read the Special Counsel reports and recommendations on the web site of the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC).
The PARC web site (under Publications”) has a collection of important Blue Ribbon Commission reports on the police that are particularly valuable resources on the history of police reform. These reports include:
- The Kerner Commission Report (1968) on the 1960s riots
- The Christopher Commission Report (1991) on the LAPD and the Rodney King incident
- The Kolts Report on the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (1992)
- The Mollen Commission Report (1994) on corruption and brutality in the NYPD
- The LAPD Board of Inquiry Report (2000) on the Rampart scandal
The Office of Independent Review (OIR) in the LASD, meanwhile, has since 2001 conducted its own investigations and issued reports on issues needing attention (see respect-based discipline, above).
Read all the reports of the OIR: http://laoir.com/
New Jersey Attorney General, Internal Affairs Policies and Procedures
There are no national standards for police department internal affairs units. (The CALEA accreditation guidelines don’t go much further than requiring that someone be responsible for handling complaints.)
The Attorney General of New Jersey has promulgated a set of required Internal Affairs Policies and Procedures.
See, in particular, the policies on accepting anonymous complaints (p. 11-17) (which most police departments do not do), and on “Domestic Violence Incidents Involving Agency Personnel” (p. 11-24)
The idea of statewide standards for internal affairs units is one that all states should consider.
In June, 2009, however, the New Jersey ACLU found that police departments across the state were not complying with the Attorney General’s requirements. Read the ACLU report.
Denver Mediation Program Improves Satisfaction with the Complaint Process
The Office of the Independent Monitor (OIM) for the Denver Police Department established a program for mediating citizen complaints.
To evaluate the impact of mediation, the OIM surveyed both complainants and citizens who had been involved in the complaint process. The survey found improvements in the levels of satisfaction among both groups.
Read about the Denver OIM, its mediation program, and the evaluation (under “Reports”):
“Learning” from Officer-Involved Shootings and Other Critical Incidents
Experts in policing argue that departments should conduct after-incident reviews to determine what they can learn about needed changes in department policies, training, or supervision.
After incident reviews are separate from incident investigations to determine whether an officer’s actions call for discipline.
One of the best discussions of the potential for learning from critical incidents is the 2003 PARC report on officer-involved shootings in the Portland, Oregon, Police Bureau.
Read the original 2003 report and follow-up reports on the PARC web site.
The Dollar Cost of a Lack of Accountability
A lack of meaningful police accountability imposes real dollar costs on local communities. Read Deborah Jacobs’ discussion of the situation in Newark, New Jersey. NJJacobs