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Miami-Dade and Internal Affairs

Rifkin By DAVID OVALLE
dovalle@miamiherald.com

Rooting out police misconduct is not an easy - or standardized -- job.

In Chicago, internal affairs detectives won’t investigate anonymous complaints. In Los Angeles, detectives are only allowed to serve in the unit for three years. In Miami-Dade, IA only investigates complaints against individual employees but not the department as a whole.

The differences and similarities in how big departments investigate, and improve, their own lies at the heart of a federal grant involving 10 of the largest law enforcement agencies in the country. The idea is to compare, contrast and smooth out the ways internal affairs investigators operate.

The $414,000 grant is important in maintaining public trust and integrity among police agencies that often find themselves criticized by citizens, officials say.

Taking part is Miami-Dade’s Professional Compliance Bureau, usually called I.A., headed by Mjr. Donald Rifkin (pictured here). The bureau investigates about 400 complaints a year for a department of some 4,700 employees.

"We feel collectively as a group that the public’s trust is of utmost importance. By sharing these guidelines, we can increase public trust in doing a better job investigating police misconduct," said Rifkin, who attended four national meetings in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. in recent months as part of the program.

The grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, will deliver a final report on the best ways to run internal affairs departments. Police departments will also hold regular video conferences.

Last week, Miami-Dade took part in a video conference with other large departments. The topic: racial profiling.

Los Angeles Police in April took criticism from city leaders when it announced 320 complaints of racial profiling had been investigated in 2007, with no claims substantiated.

LAPD Deputy Chief Mark J. Perez learned Miami-Dade police had released a racial profiling study in 2005 that found no patterns of officers using race to stop motorists.

"We learned that others are having the same problem we are. It’s impossible in an investigation to prove racial profiling or disprove. That’s important - we need to know if we’re approaching this right," Perez said.

Perez said talking with the other city's IA units is helpful not just in investigating employees but finding ways to improve how cops do their job.

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