Saturday, October 22, 2005

Investigators Can't Handle Caseload

By Jeff Proctor, Journal Staff Writer

Independent Review Officer Jay Rowland's staff of investigators is stretched to the extreme with citizen complaints against police, which have increased more than 70 percent in less than a decade.
The two investigators he has, Rowland says, simply aren't enough to handle the caseload.
With Rowland handling administrative duties for the office and reviewing complaints, two investigators have had to look into 271 citizen complaints during the first nine months of this year.
Rowland says he expects last year's record total of 307 complaints to be eclipsed by as many as 50 in 2005. And fewer than 50 percent of those are being handled by the IRO staff— an all-time low. APD'S Internal Affairs division investigates the remainder.
"The fewer cases investigated by my staff has an adverse effect on the entire system," Rowland said in an interview. "The system was put in place to have independent investigations of citizen complaints, not for me to review Internal Affairs investigations.
"It comes down to what percentage of cases do the mayor and City Council want us to investigate. That percentage is getting smaller and smaller."
He's been asking the city for an additional investigator for three years.
Now, the office will ask for two, Police Oversight Commission Chairman Chairman Michael Cook wrote in an Aug. 4 letter to Mayor Martin Chávez.
To make the request official, Rowland sent a letter dated Oct. 14 to Gail Reese, the city's chief financial officer.
Reese in an interview acknowledged that the IRO's workload has exploded— from 196 cases in 1999 to the expected 350 this year— and more investigators are needed.
She said two new investigators would cost about $140,000.
"I'll have to find a place to fund that if (Rowland) wants it done by July 1," when the new fiscal year begins, Reese said.
In his letter, Rowland detailed another reason he needs help.
He cited a drop in customer satisfaction from citizen complainants since his staff has gotten overwhelmed with the caseload increase.

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