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The internal affairs (United States terminology) division of a law enforcement agency investigates incidents and plausible suspicions of lawbreaking and professional misconduct attributed to officers on the force. In different systems, internal affairs can go by another name such as "professional standards," "inspectorate general", Office of Professional Responsibility or similar.

Several police departments in the USA have been compelled to institute civilian review or investigation of police misconduct complaints in response to community perception that internal affairs investigations are biased in favor of police officers. For example, San Francisco, California, has its Office of Citizen Complaints, created by voter initiative in 1983, in which civilians who have never been members of the San Francisco Police Department investigate complaints of police misconduct filed against members of the San Francisco Police Department. Washington, DC, has a similar office, created in 1999, known as the Office of Police Complaints [1].

Due to the sensitive nature of this responsibility, in many departments, officers working internal affairs are not in a detective command, but report directly to the agency's chief, or to a board of civilian police commissioners.

Internal Affairs investigators are bound by stringent rules when conducting their investigations. In California, the Peace Officers Bill of Rights (POBR) is a mandated set of rules found in the Government Code.

Fictional representations

In some cities in the United States, internal affairs is derisively referred to as "the rat squad"; this nickname is used on the shows Brooklyn South, Third Watch, Law & Order, and NYPD Blue.

  • Channel 4 in the United Kingdom aired a television series called Ghost Squad (2005) regarding the undercover investigation of police corruption.

In fictional depictions of police departments, officers working internal affairs are often disliked or distrusted, by crooked and honest officers alike:

  • In some French police movies (notably Les Ripoux), internal affairs (inspectorate general of the services or inspectorate general of the national police) are known as the bœufs-carottes, a kind of stew—because of their reputation for letting suspected policemen simmer until they have proof to bring out a case.
  • In the American film series Lethal Weapon, Internal Affairs is nicknamed InFernal Repairs and considered "the cops of the cops". However, the main Internal Affairs officer (Rene Russo) and the protagonist of the series (Mel Gibson) eventually fall in love with each other.
  • The 1990 film Internal Affairs is an American film starring Richard Gere and Andy Garcia.
  • The 1998 film The Negotiator is a film involving the Chicago Police Department where a framed police lieutenant named Danny Roman (Samuel L. Jackson) holds Internal Affairs Inspector Terence Niebaum hostage to clear his name.
  • The 1999 film adaptation of Random Hearts stars Harrison Ford as an internal affairs sergeant.
  • The 1997 Norwegian movie Insomnia and its 2002 remake by Christopher Nolan focuses on Will Dormer (played by Al Pacino), a detective in the Los Angeles Police Department division of Robbery/Homicide who falls under the investigation and scrutiny of Internal Affairs for discrepancies in his past cases.
  • In the FX television show The Shield, the Strike Team, an elite LAPD unit, is often the target of Internal Affairs investigators, who suspect (correctly) that Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and his team are corrupt.
  • In the ABC television series Day Break Chad is an Internal Affairs officer and Brett's partner, Andrea, is being investigated by Internal Affairs.
  • Robert De Niro played Lt. Moe Tilden, an NYPD internal affairs officer in the film Cop Land, investigating Mafia-connected corruption among the officers living in Garrison, New Jersey.
  • On the HBO drama The Wire, the Internal Investigation Division of The Baltimore Police Department, run by Major Reed reports to Commissioner Ervin Burrell reporting various offenses that can be used as blackmail and leverage against various lower ranking officers.
  • Internal Affairs is also mentioned many times in the show Law & Order: SVU. On the Baltimore Police dramas Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, the acronym IID is used to describe the Internal Investigations Division which is mentioned throughout the shows.


See also



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