This case involves an investigation delay following the shooting of a civilian child by a police officer. The officer in question was off-duty at the time of the shooting. She was walking in a local park designated for recreational use when she allegedly witnessed a drug deal between an adult and the 13-year-old victim. As she approached the scene and identified herself, the adult and child attempted to flee. The police officer opened fire, killing the child. After 10 years, the family of the victim was still unable to receive documentation regarding the investigation from their city of residence. The family consistently reached out to the investigators assigned to their case and claimed there was a total lack of information sharing from law enforcement. It was alleged that the city in question has a policy of suppressing officer misconduct and keeps inaccurate and incomplete records. An expert in law enforcement was sought to opine on standard customs and practices regarding officer investigations as well as information disclosure policies.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Please describe your background in law enforcement as it relates to this case.
Expert Witness Response E-008363
I have 35 years of law enforcement experience and served nearly 32 years with a state police department. As a senior executive state officer, I oversaw the patrol and criminal investigation activities of the full-service police agency. As a major, I was the ranking member of the department’s contract negotiation team and worked closely with the trooper’s association, labor relations, and internal affairs on employee conduct matters. I have conducted internal investigations into employee misconduct and criminal activity, and have prosecuted employees for administrative and criminal violations. I have also reviewed other agencies experiencing problems with evidence management, case supervision, and officer supervision. I was tasked with recommending changes to their administrative processes. I also served as the chief of police in a small city where I managed the Freedom of Information Act requests for all city departments.
I am familiar with the protocol for disclosure and treatment of cases of alleged misconduct and excessive force. The first step is to determine if the misconduct falls within administrative rules or if it is a criminal violation. The nature of the misconduct and the direction of the investigation will determine which employee rights (Garrity, Miranda, Beckwith etc.) may be used during the investigation. Either situation requires a thorough investigation, but investigation of an alleged criminal violation must be conducted in a manner that does not jeopardize a criminal prosecution. All investigation should be conducted in a professional, unbiased manner and thoroughly documented in written reports that are supported by properly obtained and documented evidence. The complainant / victim / plaintiff / estate should be notified about investigation results and criminal / administrative proceedings in a timely manner. Each state is different and there may be some protections in place that shield public employees from identification in administrative cases. However, criminal misconduct is an action that falls within the purview of the public. The victims of criminal acts have the right to know who the perpetrator is and what charges if any they face. A police agency must maintain the integrity of its internal controls and processes at all times to maintain the support and favor of the citizens it serves. Investigations of department members must be open to public scrutiny and must be able to bear the weight of that scrutiny. Thorough, open, and critical investigations of misconduct provide a solid foundation for the continued support of the public.