Formation & Purpose
The Office of Professional Standards was first formed in July 1974, under the title of the Inspectional Services/Internal Affairs Unit (IS/IAU). It consisted of one sergeant and one police officer. The responsibilities of the unit consisted of overall evaluation of the department and investigation of internal matters.
- When reviewing the function of individual officers and units within the department, in order to ensure compliance with departmental procedures, the IS/IAU reported to a captain/assistant to the chief.
- When conducting investigations of an internal nature, the unit reported directly to the Chief of Police.
Introduction of the Administrative Services Bureau
In February 1975, the IS/IAU was absorbed into the newly created Administrative Services Bureau, with the added responsibility of assisting the Personnel and Training Unit in conducting performance evaluations within the department.
In January 1985, following departmental changes, the IS/IAU was removed from the command of the Administrative Services Bureau and made a separate unit. Members of the IS/IAU reported directly to the Chief of Police in its Internal Affairs role, but to the Deputy Chief when involved in Inspectional Services matters. A detective captain then headed the IS/IAU, and had two detectives assigned under him.
The unit underwent several personnel and make-up changes throughout the years that followed, but its basic function and responsibilities remained constant. The performance evaluations were eventually dropped from its role.
In February 1996, the IS/IAU was assigned to a commander, with three detectives assigned under him. Later that year, the IS/IAU name was changed to the Office of Professional Standards. Currently, the Office of Professional Standards maintains a dual role of internal investigations and inspectional services, with the renewed responsibility of assisting supervisory personnel with performance evaluations. The commander, heads the Office of Professional Standards and three Detectives are assigned. The unit reports directly to the Chief of Police.
Referrals to the Office of Professional Standards come from the Mayor's Office, the Chief of Police, the Citizens' Police Review Board and Albany Police supervisors. Other referrals come from civic leaders, religious leaders and Common Council members.
When a citizen files a complaint with the Office of Professional Standards, procedure calls for an investigation into the circumstances of the incident and a written account of the findings.
Complaints Concerning Rudeness or General Service
If a complaint is made about rudeness or general service, and a formal complaint is not logged, the complaint is assigned to the officer's direct supervisor, and the complainant is usually contacted in three to five days. The supervisor speaks with the complainant and officer(s) involved, and attempts to reconcile the differences. The supervisor may then discuss the service with the officer(s), monitor future performance and/or counsel the officer(s) regarding the issue.
If the supervisor is unable to reconcile the complaint, or the complainant is not satisfied, the case is referred to the Office of Professional Standards for further action. The case is recorded on a Supervisor's Inquiry Report and forwarded to the Office of Professional Standards to be filed. This procedure allows officers' direct supervisors to monitor their actions more closely and have insight into behaviors and to take appropriate action immediately.
Complaints are investigated entirely by the members of the Office of Professional Standards. An investigation commences when a written complaint form arrives at the Office of Professional Standards and is assigned to a detective. The complainant is generally contacted for a personal interview, in order to clarify any issues, identify witnesses and obtain further documentation such as photos or medical records.
Complaints Concerning Arrests / Complainant Rights
If the complaint is the result of an arrest, the rights of the complainant (e.g. against self-incrimination) must be preserved. Additionally, the Office of Professional Standards may not, in any way, interfere with the complainant's criminal case. Departmental records pertaining to the incident are reviewed, and written accounts of the incident are obtained from the officers.
A search for independent witnesses, with no affiliation to the officers or complainant, is conducted. A confidential report, containing the findings and any recommendations, is reviewed and forwarded to the Chief of Police. Recommendations can range from counseling to discipline, or policy and procedure review or change. The complainant is then notified by mail as to the findings of the investigation.
Members of the Office of Professional Standards attend meetings of the Citizen's Police Review Board regularly. The Board is informed of the status and findings of on-going and closed investigations, and may inquire about the investigations or request further follow-up.