No matter how good a cop you may be, someday you might face an internal affairs investigation. Although you should always tell the truth in these situations, you still have rights and rules to consider prior to answering. Even if the questions aren't criminal in nature, good strategies exist for answering well in these stressful situations.
If internal affairs calls and asks preliminary questions over the phone, don't immediately offer excuses or provide rationalizations for the decision that brought you to this point. Make a polite excuse for why you can't talk, write down points that you'll use to defend yourself and call back before you say anything further. Ask specific questions about the nature of the call, rather than answering vague, open-ended questions like "tell me about the arrest you made last night." You'll need this specificity in giving yourself a chance to defend yourself properly.
Ask Your Own Questions
A key element of your defense depends on creating your own scenario first, then building on it. For example, get the investigating officer to agree that a suspect seeing and then running from you might lead to a physical confrontation if you catch him. If you subsequently roughed him up a little during the arrest -- and you don't have a long history of beating up suspects -- your actions may be considered professional and justified.
Your Protected Rights
The Lybarger admonishment is a rule that says you must answer a question from your superior officer during an IA investigation. If you don't, you can be written up for insubordination. Since you're under duress, IA can't use that information against you later in court. Of course, you still have your Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure, self-incrimination and right to counsel. Just because you're a cop doesn't mean you have lesser rights. You don't have to say anything that hurts your defense, regardless of the stresses placed on you to do so.
Ensure Your Fate
The presence of accusations -- even if they turn out to be unfounded later on -- doesn't look good. If there truly is no evidence against you, and you prove your way out of the investigation, get the investigating officer to ensure the case is listed as exonerated. Unfounded doesn't mean you weren't guilty; it just means there wasn't enough evidence to prove things either way.
David Lipscomb is a professional writer and public relations practitioner. Lipscomb brings more than a decade of experience in the consumer electronics and advertising industries. Lipscomb holds a degree in public relations from Webster University.