Chapter 5: Accountability and Investigation

5.4 Investigation Models

Griffiths (2013) describes three different models that are used in different jurisdictions to investigate the police: the dependent model, the interdependent model, and the independent model.

The dependent model includes police departments in which police officers investigate allegations against their own members, or members of another police department. The benefits of a dependent model include the following: the officers being investigated are easily accessible to the investigator; there are lower costs associated with the investigation; and the investigators are fluent in the local police culture and organizational values and have greater legitimacy among officers. Conversely, the criticism associated with the dependent model of investigation is primarily directed at the lack of accountability toward subject officers. The lack of accountability is a result of investigators being part of the same subculture and therefore not being independent enough to be objective. Without independence, the investigation can be viewed as biased and therefore not legitimate by society.

The interdependent model is a system in which investigators investigate allegations against their own members, or members of another police department with civilian oversight. One of the benefits of this model is that it demonstrates independent oversight of the investigation. This enables the community to believe that the investigation will be balanced and not in favour of the police or the civilian party. Additionally, the community is able to provide feedback and suggestions regarding the investigation from a civilian perspective. Criticisms include the inability to gain the cooperation of the police should they decline to participate in the investigation. Furthermore, given their own experiences with investigations, police officers may be reluctant, in some instances, to follow the directions of civilians who may not be aware of flaws in an investigation’s process.

The independent model includes a civilian body of investigators that receive complaints and initiate and conduct the complete investigation independently from the law enforcement agency that is involved in the allegation. The public generally views this model as the most effective due to the independence of the investigators, which offers greater accountability for the actions of officers. The independent model allows citizens to feel more comfortable complaining about officer misconduct, without the fear of reprisals or the fear of being interviewed in a manner in which they are the “them” in an “us versus them” situation. Arguments against an independent model include are that investigators may not have a full understanding of police techniques and police culture and they may lack experience in criminal investigations. Additionally, independent investigators will likely be unable to gain trust within law enforcement agencies, therefore eliminating such important investigative tools as source information and the necessity to bond with subjects.


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Ethics in Law Enforcement Copyright © 2015 by Steve McCartney and Rick Parent is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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