Sheriff Ian Parkinson heard a lot of complaints in the two years before his election, from both inside and outside the department, about how internal affairs investigations were handled.
Internal affairs — the unit that investigates citizens’ complaints brought against Sheriff’s Department personnel — was inactive during the tenure of the prior sheriff, Pat Hedges.
But Parkinson is bringing back the unit to fulfill a pledge he made in the campaign for a more open department. He has hired a retired Los Angeles Police Department commander to handle his department’s internal investigations.
Jim Voge will investigate all complaints of officer misconduct and report directly to Parkinson or Undersheriff Martin Basti. Voge — hired to be a “neutral fact-finder” — has extensive experience and brings “a complete outsider’s view,” Parkinson said.
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Voge retired in 2007 after 33 years with the LAPD and moved to the Central Coast. Before retiring, he headed that department’s internal affairs unit, which consisted of 278 employees and investigated more than 6,000 complaints annually.
Voge met Parkinson during his election campaign and learned that he was interested in re-establishing the internal affairs unit. Parkinson hired Voge in February as a non-benefited hourly employee with the rank of commander. He will work about half-time; the wage for commander ranges from $54.30 to $66 hourly.
In addition to investigating complaints, Voge has developed new personnel complaint policies for the department and conducts training. He is a nationally recognized expert in investigating officer-involved shootings, Parkinson said.
Under Hedges, complaints were handled by various supervisors after someone came in and filled out a form, a process that Voge described as “antiquated.” Now, a supervisor handles the initial complaint, writes up a report himself and turns the investigation over to Voge.
“I treat a complaint like a crime report,” Voge said.
The department receives about 25 complaints annually, Parkinson said. Most of them are complaints of rudeness.
Internal affairs investigators can sometimes be viewed with hostility within the department and even called names such as headhunters. However, Voge said he was pleased to be welcomed by department personnel.
“The employees want fairness and objectivity,” he said.
Voge lives with his wife of 23 years, Ramona, in Cambria, where he is involved in various volunteer organizations.
Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.