Nearly every day, I hear or see allegations that are presented as fact but are really opinions. I think many people have trouble distinguishing the difference between the two, and I know that I sometimes believe things without really being able to prove they are true. Lawyers are very good at exploiting this uncertainty when building cases for or against a particular point of view.
Experienced police officers know that people rarely remember events the same way, and witnesses can be completely mistaken about important facts in a case. We are all familiar with examples of people wrongly convicted by eyewitness testimony, and I have personally seen people testify to something under oath that was demonstrably untrue. The fact that all of us have unreliable memories does not mean we all have bad intentions or are liars. Sometimes we just perceive things differently.
Sorting out what really happened and taking appropriate action when an allegation is made is often a difficult task. If five people leave a meeting feeling it was positive and productive and one walks away completely dissatisfied, was the meeting good or bad? Usually, we give credibility to a majority opinion or to facts that can be independently corroborated, but there are clearly times when one person sees something no one else considered.
We rely on an elaborate system of laws and courts to resolve many of these differences, recognizing that this process is far from foolproof. I was reading a newspaper article this morning about what appeared to be two murders where those who seemed to be guilty of the crimes were never prosecuted due to lack of evidence.
City investigations cover a wide range of subjects that include everything from looking into accusations against employees to checking out whether grass and weeds constitute a fire hazard. Allegations involving employees are treated carefully and seriously. Most city employees have rights guaranteed in labor agreements and state statutes that specify how any investigation into their conduct must be handled. Usually, investigations begin at the department level and, depending on their nature, are directed to Human Resources (HR). Our HR Department also consults with attorneys provided by our insurance carrier on any significant personnel issue, and the nature of the allegation may dictate that an outside agency or firm be called in to fully investigate the issue.
Regardless of the outcome of an investigation, it is common for someone to disagree with its conclusions. Some will feel the response was too lenient, while others may believe it was too harsh or unfair. I can’t guarantee that city investigations into the truth surrounding a particular issue will yield a result that makes everyone happy. I can guarantee that allegations will be treated with the respect they deserve and a good faith effort will be made to discern the truth.