Many years ago, a very new police officer [no...it
wasn't me this time] was trying to arrest a man for
a relatively minor crime. The man resisted the
officer, and they got involved in a violent struggle.
As they rolled around on the ground, the suspect
got on top of the officer where he applied a very
effective choke hold.
The officer could not break the choke hold, and he
felt himself losing consciousness. The only means
of defense left to the officer was his service
revolver. Just as he was about to pass out, the
officer got his revolver out of the holster, and he
pulled the trigger. As soon as the weapon
discharged, the suspect rolled off the officer onto
his knees and surrendered.
The officer held the suspect at gunpoint; until, help
arrived, and the suspect was transported to the
station house. The suspect went through the
booking process with the desk sergeant as the
turn-key (cell block officer) made a thorough search
of the suspect's clothing. After booking, the
turn-key fingerprinted the suspect and placed him
into a cell.
About two hours passed when the suspect called
out the familiar cell block refrain, "Turn-key." "Yea,
what do you want," asked the turn-key? "I need to
go to the hospital." The turn-key asked the
obvious, "Why?" "I'm shot," replied the suspect.
People in police cell blocks often come up with some
good ones, and the turn-key didn't believe the
suspect. After much insistence that he was telling
the truth, the turn-key said, "Okay, show me." The
suspect dropped his pants and pressed his thigh
against the bars to give the turn-key a close look.
The turn-key had seen enough bullet wounds to
realize that he was looking at one now. When he
asked the suspect who'd shot him, he had to pause
to comprehend the suspect's reply. The turn-key
then chastised the suspect, "Why didn't you say
something sooner?" The suspect answered, "It
didn't hurt at first, but now it's really hurting."
Like the Boarder Patrol agents, this officer failed to
report the discharge of his service revolver. What
this officer had going for him was a competent
supervisor who conducted an immediate, competent
and thorough investigation. In the end, after
interviewing the suspect, responding officers, the
desk sergeant, and turn-key, it was clear that the
only violation by the officer was his failure to report
the discharge of his weapon. All the interviews,
including that of the suspect, made it clear that the
officer believed the bullet he'd fired had been
discharged harmlessly into the ground. In fact, the
suspect turned out to be the best witness of all in
supporting the officer's reason for resorting to
deadly force, and his [suspect's] belief that the
officer did not know he'd shot him.
The officer, being so new an inexperienced, used
poor judgement. However, he made no effort to
cover up anything, and he was really lucky. Aside
from having a good sergeant, the same suspect,
who had no qualms about choking out a police
officer, ended up displaying some pretty good
character by being completely truthful. Because he
had so much going for him, this police officer would
go on to enjoy a productive police career.
You're going to make mistakes during your career,
but don't let any of those mistakes be stupid and
totally preventable ones. Failing to report your
discharge of your service pistol is certainly stupid
Let's start with the only thing that is undisputed in
the tragic case cited above... those two Border
Patrol agents did not prepare and submit
administrative reports regarding the discharge of
their weapons. I assume there was an incident
report regarding the seizure/recovery of the drugs
involved, and -- evidently -- there was no mention
in that report referencing the shots fired.
Also...if reports regarding the number of agents
responding to the incident is somewhat accurate, I
find it monumentally hard to believe that no
supervisor was aware that shots had been fired.
When you make your first response to "shots fired"
involving a police officer, you'll know exactly what
I'm talking about.
As your police career progresses, you're going to
see some prosecutions, as well as
non-prosecutions, that have more to do about
politics than about justice. You'd think that since
police officers are the most frequent defendants in
the political prosecutions, cops would have a better
understanding of their jeopardy...especially when it
comes to discharging their service pistols.
If I were to speculate, I'd assume that the Border
Patrol agents, more than just the two going to jail,
concluded that since the shots didn't hit the guy, or
so they thought, why go through all the
paperwork? Of course, my speculation is only
based upon many years of experience involving a lot
of police officers who think that way. Circumventing
what many believe to be needless rules and
procedures is all fun and games; until, somebody
gets fired, or worse...goes to jail!
Here's what you've got to get through your head.
There are many, many people who don't like police
officers. They dislike you most for the power and
authority you possess. Many of these people are
themselves in positions of power, and they believe
that cops must periodically be sent to jail to keep
the rest of you under control. Of course, you'll
really be fighting cynicism when you see real
criminal cops enjoy the mercy, and sometimes even
the protection, of those powerful cop haters and
their allies within law enforcement agencies.
Had the Border Patrol agents submitted the proper
and complete reporting stating the same reasons
for discharging their weapons as they would later
explain to a jury, that would have been the end.
Had the drug dealer come forward complaining
about the bullet in his butt, the only thing he'd have
gotten for his trouble was a felony drug charge as
well as charges for assaulting the agents.
You'd think by now that police officers would
understand how excited prosecutors get when they
suspect a cover-up. Once they realize that they can
actually prove a cover-up, they become ecstatic.
There's no more fertile circumstances provided for
cover-ups than cops too lazy to write reports.
A Police Officer discharging a firearm is a
If you ever have to fire your service pistol in the line
of duty, [aside from training] you'll be required to
submit a written report. There are no exceptions.
If a supervisor ever tells you that you don't need to
write a report, reference that stupid direction in
your report as well. Of course, you'll be asked to
remove that reference when your report is reviewed.
Those Border Patrol agents certainly didn't do the
right thing after their confrontation with that drug
dealer. Whatever the reasons for not making the
proper reporting, they were certainly candidates for
punishment. The government had the evidence and
means to subject the agents to any number of
administrative punishments up to and including
termination of their employment.
If the government wanted to send a message to all
Border Patrol agents, firing the two agents would
have accomplished that goal. However,
circumstances and political climate will always affect
how police officers are disciplined, or prosecuted,
when they fail to follow procedures.
"There's no more fertile circumstances
provided for cover-ups than cops too lazy to
write reports." ~ Barry M. Baker
"Two U.S. Border Patrol agents were sentenced to
prison terms of 11 years and 12 years for shooting
a drug smuggling suspect in the buttocks as he
fled across the U.S.-Mexico border.
U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone in El
Paso, Texas, sentenced Jose Alonso Compean to 12
years in prison and Ignacio Ramos to 11 years and
one day despite a plea by their attorney for a new
trial after three jurors said they were coerced into
voting guilty in the case, the Washington Times
|Copyright © 2019 Barry M. Baker