HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH Shielded from Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States

Police Administration/
Internal Affairs Division

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As noted above, the police department has gone through a series of leadership transitions during the past several years. Michael Zunk has been the chief since February 1997. In response to a written question posed by Human Rights Watch, Chief Zunk stated that one main challenge in curtailing abuses by officers is that one-on-one cases - where an alleged victim of abuse is the only witness - are difficult to sustain because the complainants are often accused of criminal activity and "do not make the best witnesses." 41 The other challenge to curtailing abuses, said the chief, is that officers are entitled to full constitutional protections, and their rights must be protected "just as zealously as the rights of other citizens."42

The Internal Affairs Division (IAD) investigates, or reviews the district investigations of, all complaints of police brutality or other misconduct.43 IAD receives complaints from the public, as well as internally generated complaints. According to the CPC, IAD does not provide information to complainants about the status of its investigation.44 CPC has also noted that IAD reviews the criminal history of the complainant, but does not review the criminal history or prior complaints against the subject officer.

The IAD informs complainants that they have a choice between filing a complaint first with IAD or the CPC Office, and informs them that if they submit their complaint to IAD, they can later request citizen review by the CPC Office, butif they file a complaint with the CPC office, they may not have an "appeal" opportunity.45

IAD reportedly investigates any unnecessary force allegation, and if it is of a possibly criminal nature, the complaint is forward to the district attorney's office. The CPC is not involved in the most serious investigations, according to IAD.

The IAD's findings on whether a complaint is sustained, not sustained (could not make determination, usually involves one-on-one cases with only officer's and complainant's accounts), exonerated (officer acted within departmental rules), unfounded (incident did not happen as alleged by complainant), or terminated (not pursued for a range of reasons), are sent to the executive assistant to the police chief, who agrees or disagrees with the findings. Not sustained findings are sent to the CPC, and if the CPC disagrees with the findings, the complaint is returned to IAD, which is not obligated to renew the investigation. If the complainant is not satisfied with the IAD's findings, he or she may ask for a hearing, but the hearing request must take place within 180 days of the incident (so that if an investigation is delayed through no fault of the complainant, he or she may not get a hearing).

The department does not yet appear to have an "early warning system" in place to identify officers who are the subjects of repeated complaints, but a system is being established.46 The program will monitor several factors, including activity, arrests, sick time, and complaints to decide whether the officer deviates from the norm. The officer may then be counseled, receive help (voluntary or mandatory) through the Employee Assistance Program, or be closely monitored to ensure the problem is resolved.47 Chief Zunk also states that a new Professional Standards Unit has been created to conduct inspections of the entire department's operations, and that policieson substance abuse, duties of officers arrested, and improper use of force have been strengthened.48

IAD receives notice of tort civil claims against Indianapolis police officers, but an IAD representative reports that the incidents have usually already been investigated by IAD by the time a civil lawsuit is filed.49

41 Ibid.

42 Ibid.

43 Telephone interview with Lt. Darrell Pierce, IAD, October 3, 1997.

44 Interview with Reeder, August 21, 1995.

45 Ibid. The IAD representative stated that this is according to the CPC's guiding ordinance.

46 Telephone interview with Lt. Darrell Pierce, IAD, October 3, 1997. In a letter to Human Rights Watch dated January 26, 1998, Chief Zunk stated that there is an early warning system, but speaks of it in the future tense. IAD's Lieutenant Pierce told Human Rights Watch in October 1997 that no such system existed yet.

47 Civil lawsuit information will not be included as part of the early warning tracking system. Telephone interview with IAD's Lieutenant Pierce, October 3, 1997.

48 Letter to Human Rights Watch from Chief Zunk, January 26, 1998. In a related positive development, Chief Zunk suspended, and began dismissal proceedings, against a veteran sergeant accused of hitting his girlfriend and failing to cooperate with investigators; it was the second time the sergeant had been accused of mistreating his girlfriend. R. Joseph Gelarden, "Police chief suspends IPD sergeant," Indianapolis Star/News, March 6, 1998.

49 Telephone interview with IAD's Lieutenant Pierce, October 3, 1997.

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© June 1998
Human Rights Watch