Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Police Agency Internal Investigations Are Unfair To Cops.

We all know that sometimes thieves and people with other criminal tendencies sometimes slip through the cracks of the police hiring process. That can do serious damage to the image, credibility and effectiveness of any department. Internal investigations are a necessary function to deal with the reality of substandard officers.

When someone pulls a fire alarm or makes a false police report, a swift arrest and prosecution is the price the offenders must pay. That’s almost never the case when revenge-seeking complainants falsely accuse cops of brutality, racial profiling and sexual abuse. The practice of not prosecuting the trolls who make the false reports only invite more false reports.

Whenever an officer is involved in a shooting his or her rights against self-incrimination are trashed as the department demands the officer make a written report and answer questions about the shooting. After a traumatic event like a shooting no officer is in emotional condition to correctly recall and articulate what has happened. Time and space become so jumbled that it becomes impossible to accurately describe such an event. An officer needs a 72-hour break to settle in, reflect on the event before being interrogated. Even then the officer may well be wrong about distances and the passage of time during the event. That’s is not deception just error.

When I was in a shooting as a private investigator, I was able to refuse questions and remain silent. I remembered feeling the soft grass under my feet during the shooting. After seeing the photographs of the scene it was clear there was no grass within 100 feet of where I was standing, walking and shooting. Someone would have made a liar out of me if I had given that information in a statement I thought to be true. Thankfully that did not happen.

It’s time for every union that represents cops to include in contract demands two things:

1. Absolute prosecution of complainants that make a false report accusing cops of crimes or departmental rule violations.
2. A 72-hour, no report, no questions rule for officers involved in shootings.

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