Internal affairs investigation begins first and foremost with the questions that are going to be asked of the officer. usually the officer gets a notice in his mailbox or he gets a call from his captain or lieutenant that says to report to internal affairs. It’s serious at that point and I can feel the anxiety in the officers voice when they call and they say, “Hey, Tom, I need your help.”
The number one mistake that police officers make when they go into an internal affairs interview is trying to explain away the problem. The internal affairs interview is not the place to defend yourself. You’re in the internal affairs interview because the law requires you to answer the questions put to you by the internal affairs investigators or you lose your job. You need representation when you go into internal affairs. Any officer who does not take an experienced attorney with them to represent them in that internal affairs interviewer is risking his career.
A key component to successfully defending a police officer in an internal affairs investigation is to understand the process, and having worked in law enforcement for a dozen years before I went into the practice of law enables me to do just that. If you don’t understand the process of how an internal affairs investigation works, you stand little chance of navigating it successfully and getting a good result. One big advantage of my law enforcement background is knowing the investigators personally. Often, when I go to an internal affairs interview, it’s not the first case I’ve had with the investigating officer. If you have a rapport like I do with a lot of these investigators, it really helps to bring about a successful conclusion of the case. In my experience, most internal affairs investigators are good people who like the officer who is under investigation. Most of them don’t want to hurt their fellow law enforcement officers. They just want to get to the facts of the case and get a report to the police chief for review. I try to tap into that goodwill and speak to the investigator like a human being and get to the bottom of what the case is really about.
If you are a law enforcement officer in New Jersey and are the target of an internal affairs investigation, please feel free to reach out to us for help.