Are You the Target?
Protect Yourself in Internal Investigations

(9/9/2007)

“Can I talk to you for a minute?”

Many of us end up in the office of our Lieutenant or Captain for what seems like a casual conversation with this question. We then learn they want to talk to us about an incident that occurred on the street or an internal complaint. Or worse, you may also find yourself in the Professional Standards Office for this “informal” chat. This can be a very intimidating situation, even for veteran officers. Now what do you do?

You need to protect yourself by staying cool, calm, and collected, and ask your inquisitor three simple questions:

  1. Am I the target of an investigation?
  2. What policy violations, if any, are you investigating?
  3. Are you ordering me to answer questions?

You should then inform them that you would like to have a representative from the Union with you for the interview. If you are not allowed to have a Union representative present and you are ordered to answer questions, obey the order and contact a Board member or the W.P.P.A. immediately afterwards. You may proceed without a representative, of course, but it is important to have a witness with you during an interview to guide you through this seemingly adversarial experience. We believe that an affirmative answer to question number 3 will invoke your protections under the “Garrity” decision.

I strongly suggest if the answer to question 3 is anything other than “Yes” that you politely and professionally decline to answer questions, leave the office, and contact a Union Board member immediately. A negative answer regarding being ordered to answer questions indicates an investigation in which you may be subject to discipline, termination, or criminal sanctions. We can’t help you unless you let us know about the investigation. Let us be the buffer we all need when faced with an accusation.

In any case, if you answer questions, ALWAYS be truthful. The guaranteed way to termination starts with untruthfulness and there is nothing we can do to save your job if you lie.

Stay safe and protect yourself, both on and off the street.