The old adage “the wheels of justice grind slowly” is so often the case when dealing with internal affairs investigations in any law enforcement agencies across the state. This is especially true when dealing with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as the bureaucracy between state agencies can often mire the investigative process to a near standstill. Nearly one year ago a Correctional Sergeant at Folsom State Prison was served notice of an emergency investigation to be conducted over the weekend regarding a recent death in custody. An inmate with a complex series of health issues had died after becoming combative with officers necessitating use of force against him by correctional staff, and specifically the Sergeant.
Receiving notice only the night before, Goyette attorney Dan Thompson immediately responded so that the Sergeant could have legal representation during an unusual Saturday investigation. Attorney Thompson met with the Sergeant well in advance of the interrogation to provide both support and reassurance in an unsettling situation as well as assist his client in preparing to answer some tough questions. In addition, Thompson made sure that the Sgt did not voluntarily answer any questions from criminal investigators who were present in addition to the agents from the Office of Internal Affairs. Voluntarily speaking to criminal investigators (even if you are innocent) can unnecessarily expose you to additional liability. Ultimately, nearly one year later, the Sergeant just received notice that she was exonerated of all charges against her and that she was not the cause of the inmate’s death.
Consulting with your legal counsel prior to participating in an internal investigation is of critical importance in all cases. This is especially true if the investigation may contain a criminal element to it should the incident involve the death or serious injury of an inmate or the discharge of a firearm or other use of deadly force. Even in less serious cases, having your legal counsel present can reassure you that you are taking the right steps, that you are adequately prepared and understand the process, and ultimately be key component to a positive outcome. Though the final results may take a full year to be issued, news such as this Sergeant just received is good no matter how long it takes.