Internal Affairs Commander
Orlando Police Department
9-11 delivered terrorism to our homes and lay it on our doormats, forcing us to re-evaluate our lives and the way we live them. That one day forced us to think about how to protect not only ourselves but the people we love. It seems that after 9-11 America as we know was forever changed. We not only had to figure out how to deal with threats from without but also how to deal with threats from within our communities.
Recently, focus has been placed on the relationships between Police and the African-American community; particularly African American males. EM sat down with Dwain Rivers, Internal Affairs Commander for the Orlando Police Department, who shared with us the role of this office in insuring a safe environment for all of Orlando’s citizens by investigating complaints that are lodged against Orlando Police Officers and working to build relationships between the officers and the community.
About Dwain Rivers
Rivers is a native of Orlando, born to Johnny and Betty Rivers, now Betty Tatum. One of five children, he graduated from West Orange High School. Rivers joined the United States Army shortly after graduation. While enlisted he joined the Military Police and after basic training attended Jump School (Paratrooper). He became Airborne Certified and was assigned to Ft. Bragg in North Carolina.
“As a military police officer I was exposed to similar situations an officer would face in most major cities. I enjoyed what I did and thought I could make a difference in a career that was respected.” this quote will be set off in the article.
Rivers left the Army after being introduced to Major Richard Overman of the Orlando Police Department (OPD) by his mother. After a tour and spending almost a full day at the Department, Overman told him that he felt that Rivers would be a great officer. Rivers made the decision to leave the Army and join OPD where he served for two years as a Patrol Officer. He then worked undercover with the drug unit during the time when crack cocaine was introduced into communities. Rivers also was a member of S.W.A.T performing duties on the assault team and Sniper unit. Rivers was later promoted to Sargent within four years of joining the department. While a member of the Force Rivers worked towards acquiring his Bachelor of Arts Degree and later his Masters’ Degree in Public Administration.
Around his seventh year with OPD Rivers was involved in an accident that would change his life both personally and professionally. During the Annual S.W.A.T. International Competition, Rivers and a team member were paired up in an exercise known as the Tower Scramble. For Rivers the day would not end well. His equipment malfunctioned resulting in him falling five stories and sustaining injuries that would end his career as an active Police Officer.
After his recovery, Rivers went to work for Orange County Public Schools where he worked as a Security Services Specialist and as a Senior Manager for Employee Relations. Some of his job responsibilities included developing and implementing security programs, establishing ethical standards and directing and overseeing internal investigations for an entity that is the 12th largest school district in the United States. Rivers worked with OCPS for ten years.
Changes at OPD
Back at the Orlando Police Department things were changing. Michael McCoy had been promoted to Police Chief and one of his goals was to make improvements to the Internal Affairs Department. Looking for someone that was not a Police Officer to lead Internal Affairs, Rivers was chosen because he had experience working as an officer, coupled with the outside experience necessary to be an effective and respected leader. He knew the importance of confidentiality and had a proven track record of being a thorough Investigator. Rivers would be the Department’s first civilian Internal Affairs Manager.
What is Internal Affairs?
Internal Affairs is the compliance arm of the Police Department. The function of Internal Affairs is to protect the integrity of the agency. It is part of Professional Standards and reports directly to the Chief of Police. Internal Affairs works closely with training, has a random drug testing program, presents cases to the Citizens Police Review Board and participates in the Grievance and Arbitration process. These are just a few of the Department’s functions.
Filing a Complaint Against a Police Officer
If you as a citizen ever feel that you have been treated in an unfair manner, all you need to do is go into the Police Department to fill out the Citizen Complaint Form, request a form be mailed to you, or go on line and fill out the form. You have options.
Per Rivers “Every last form is reviewed by the office.” Depending on the type of complaint it is categorized and routed to the proper Investigator. Witnesses are called in for interviews and testimonies of officers and witnesses are vetted to determine credibility.
“I sign off on every formal investigation completed by Internal Affairs. If the officer(s) are found to have violated policy, they will receive discipline in accordance with past practice for similar violation(s).”
Stakeholder in the Community
Rivers is a stakeholder in the community. It is important to him that the relationships between citizens and law enforcement work. Not only are his wife, Latonjua, and teenage sons, Dakota and Stone in Orlando, but his father, mother, brothers, sister and their families live in Orlando as well.
What advice does Rivers give to his sons about being stopped by the police?
- Keep your registration and a copy of your license attached to the driver side visor. This way the information is readily available to be presented when requested by an officer. When asked for the original license, tell the officer that it is in your wallet or identify where it is so that he/she will know that you will need to get it.
- Keep your hands in plain sight. On the steering wheel is best.
- Many people feel that they should not have to do this, however, considering the times that we live in, it is best to work together to make sure that at the end of the day, citizens and officers both get to greet their families at the end of the day.
Officers and citizens have the same goal in mind and that is safety for all involved parties.
The Internal Affairs Department works with complete autonomy. While the Chief of Police has to give the approval to move forward with any investigation, Rivers says that in all the years that he has worked with the Department, there has not been one investigation that the Chief or any outside pressure attempted to influence the outcome of an investigation. .
Rivers has served on many Boards throughout his career, however at this time of his life being there for his sons is a priority.
Our interview with Rivers was interesting and informative. We always like to know how our interviewees wind down at the end of the day. Rivers says that he is 100% Dad and Husband. He enjoys the time he spends with his sons who are very involved in football and basketball. Much of his weekend time is spent travelling to games or taking family vacations. Rivers also has an adult son, Dwain Rivers Jr., who is stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia with his family. Rivers is an Adjunct Instructor at Valencia Community College, loves photography and is seldom without his camera equipment. When asked what grounds him Rivers replies “I am grounded by my faith in GOD and belief that prayer works.”
It was a pleasure meeting and talking with Dwain Rivers.
Visit www.cityoforlando.net to learn more about the Orlando Police Department and or Internal Affairs.