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Experts break down how police complaints are investigated

Posted at 10:26 PM, Feb 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 12:18:52-05

TEMPLE, TX — As the investigation continues into the death of Michael Dean, many wonder how the investigation is being conducted.

The 28-year-old was shot and killed by Temple Police officer Carmen DeCruz back in December. Advocates for the Dean family have been vocal in demanding transparency from law enforcement.

“When it comes to complaints against law enforcement officers, what we focus on is the officer gets some sort of due process,” said Kevin Lawrence, Executive Director of the Texas Municipal Police Association. He says that due process is not just for the officer, but for the citizens, too.

“There are some general guidelines laid out on how officer complaints are handled, but they really don’t get into the weeds into how those have to be conducted,” said Lawrence.

Since Dean’s death, the Texas Rangers have handled the investigation. Results of the investigation are pending.

In Temple, residents voted to adopt a local government code known as Chapter 143. When an officer is disciplined under this civil service system, the officer has a right to appeal it either to that civil service commission or to an independent third-party hearing examiner. The Michael Dean case has not arrived at that point, yet, if it will at all.

25 News reached out to the Temple Police Department about their process to investigate complaints.

They told us the approach is multi-pronged. Media Relations Specialist Cody Weems said:

  • There must be a formal complaint submitted to the department or Chief. This can be from a citizens or internally from another officer or supervisor
  • An investigation must be order by the Chief of Police.
  • The internal affairs investigator reviews all information or evidence available. They then prepare an allegation document that is presented to the officer for review.
  • The internal affairs investigators conduct interviews with the officer under investigation and with other officers, department employees or community members that may have relevant information.
  • At the conclusion of the investigation, internal affairs investigators submit a report to the Chief of Police outlining the finding of their investigation.
  • The Chief reviews the investigation and makes a preliminary decision on what discipline, if any, may be imposed.
  • The Chief then convenes a series of three hearings (Loudermill): 1st Meeting- Delivery of Notice of Proposed Discipline. 2nd Meeting- Officer’s Response. Final Meeting- Disciplinary Decision.

Officers have a right to appeal certain disciplinary decisions under the Meet and Confer Agreement between the City of Temple and Temple Police Association. Officers can also have legal counsel present during all interviews and hearings conducted by the department.