The LVPPA has seen an uptick in criminal interviews being done by LVMPD from both the Intel and the Criminal Internal Affairs sections. These two units typically handle the investigations and allegations that LVMPD officers have been involved in criminal conduct. The Intel side, because they have a background in long-term investigations and experience dealing with high-level criminal investigations, usually takes on lengthy, intricate investigations. Intel detectives are used to conducting in-depth investigations where the suspect and witnesses do not feel compelled to speak to them. These detectives usually use their detective skills to build a case. The Intel squad usually has experience in T3s, pen registers, search warrants and things of that nature. The Criminal Internal Affairs group usually handles the easier, not-too-involved cases, such as domestic violence, battery, alleged simple cases that occur during the course and scope of an officer’s duties.
In both cases, you as an officer still have rights. I hope this article helps you understand those rights and responsibilities so that no one finds themselves feeling a fellow officer/detective has violated their rights.
First and foremost, Criminal Intel and the Criminal IA team are not the same. Criminal IA works for the Internal Affairs captain, whereas the Criminal Intel Section has a totally different chain of command. Both groups may investigate cases that could have occurred on or off duty. Both may come to you and ask for an interview regarding whatever case they have going. We have seen Criminal Intel tell an officer they are a witness to a case but later arrest the officer after the interview. This particular officer never requested a PPA representative to sit in on the interview. Both sides may even tell you something to the effect of “This isn’t a big deal. You’re just a witness. You don’t really need a rep. This is just to clear some things up. If you don’t have anything to hide, why would you need a rep?” Do these sound familiar? You have probably said similar things to a criminal suspect several times when trying to build your case. How many times did those statements work out and benefit the suspect? What I hope our officers take away from this article is that you have rights and you shouldn’t give up those rights to a detective just because they say “it’s no big deal.” If it is no big deal, then there is no harm in your having someone present to watch out for you. When any criminal group asks you for an interview, please use the following to protect yourself:
- Am I a suspect?
- If they say you are a suspect, you have the right to remain silent! Stop and contact the PPA to speak with an attorney.
- Am I a witness?
- If they say you are a witness, you have the right to a representative before conducting the interview! In June of 2018, LVMPD signed a settlement agreement with the LVPPA over a court case regarding interviews of witnesses in criminal investigations. The following are the applicable terms of the settlement:
- LVMPD agrees it will not use NRS 289.020(3) to threaten or charge an officer who witnesses an alleged crime while off duty with insubordination for failure to cooperate with a criminal investigation. Officers will have the right to choose whether they want to give a statement to investigators or otherwise participate in a criminal investigation. Example: Off-duty officers witness an altercation at a bar involving another employee. Criminal IA comes out and requests an interview. You can say no and leave and you will not be charged with insubordination for doing so.
- The parties acknowledge that officers who witness a crime, while on duty, are obligated to cooperate in the criminal investigation pursuant to LVMPD policy 4/101.14. Example: It is alleged that your partner did something criminal on duty. You do not have the right to say no to this interview, but you do have the right to ask for and wait for a rep.
- If a witness officer requests representation and the investigator wants to proceed with the interview, PPA will promptly respond, without delay, to such request. Example: Detectives ask to interview you for an on-duty criminal complaint. You ask/demand for a representative. The interviewer must allow you to call us and wait for us to arrive or they can choose not to interview you. P# 13663 Be prepared for the guilt trip to get you to give the interview without a rep.
These rights that we have secured for you are only good if you enforce them. These units will try and convince you that you don’t need a representative. When this happens, ask yourself, “Why?” The reason is they want to elicit as much free information from you as possible, which may hurt you in a future investigation, and they fear we will protect you from saying such things. If one of these units tells you, “You are free to leave,” walk out and call the PPA. We will be there extremely fast and will make sure we do everything we can to help you in these interviews. Don’t let the investigators pressure you into an interview. Know your rights. Even when you have nothing to hide, it is still better to have someone looking out for your best interests.