When people lie to you, or they make
false reports about anything, it's not
normally a big deal.  However, when you,
a police officer, make a false report about
anything, it is a very big deal.

When you become a police officer, you'll
experience frustration when you realize
that few things will be totally under your
control.  However, there is one thing that
is totally under your control, and the only
way you can lose that control is if you
relinquish it through dishonesty,
incompetence, stupidity, or indifference.  
Your credibility is yours to cherish and
preserve, or it's yours to lose...there is
no middle ground.

When you prepare a report, and you put
your name to it, you're stating that the
contents of that report are true and
accurate to the best of your knowledge.  
It doesn't matter if the subject of your
report is a minor incident or one of more
importance.  Truth and accuracy are not
applied on a sliding scale.  They are
applicable to everything all of the time.

If you join a police department where
supervisors and commanders insist on
accuracy, and the department has a
quality control system in place to ensure
the integrity of its reporting practices,
you'll experience continuous reminders of
the importance of credibility.  If you join a
police department where supervisors and
commanders are more interested in
reducing the reported incidents of crime
than they are in ensuring accuracy, you'll
be exposed to bad influences, and it will
be your sole responsibility to protect
your credibility.

When police officers, whether from
dishonesty or simple laziness, knowingly
submit false reports, they place
themselves and others in jeopardy.
The year was 1990.  I had just changed
over to day work, and day work always
brings housekeeping duties like serving
criminal summonses or misdemeanor
arrest warrants.  As I sat at roll call
glancing through several summonses and
a couple of arrest warrants, one name
stood out; it was a very recognizable
name.  A man by the same name was a
Maryland State Senator.  The name
appeared as the defendant on one of the
arrest warrants
charging the defendant with
misdemeanor theft under $300.

The warrant was in the form of a warrant
control sheet.  It verified the existence of
the arrest warrant filed at the
department's Central Records Division.  
The warrant control sheet didn't have a
copy of the probable cause statement
attached, so I had no idea regarding the
details of the offense.  It didn't matter,
the control sheet was all I needed to
lawfully execute the warrant and take the
defendant into custody.  In fact, you'll
learn that a police officer is never to
question the content of an arrest
warrant.  The rule is simple.  A court
issues an arrest warrant, and a police
officer executes the arrest warrant.  
However...as you read on, you'll see
another example where there will always
be an exception to every rule.  Just
remember...if you ever go up against a
judge, you'd better have all your facts
and be 100% right.

When I looked at the defendant's
address, I assumed the defendant must
be another person who just had the
same name.  I knew the neighborhood
wherein the Senator resided, and the
address on the warrant was located in a
different area of the district all together.  
I was curious since the defendant's date
of birth put the defendant within the
Senator's age range, so I made that
warrant my first order of business that

I knocked on the front door of the two
story row home.  As I was about to
knock a second time, the door opened,
and a man greeted me, "Good morning,
Officer."  My silent pause evoked a
question from the man, "Can I help you,
Officer?"  My response put an expression
of bewilderment on the man's face, "It
really is you," I said as I smiled.  "Pardon
me," the Senator asked?  "I have a
warrant for your arrest, Senator."  The
Senator tilted his head, and the blank
expression on his face turned to a small
smile.  He leaned his head forward, and
he glanced up and down the street as if
looking for someone he knew.  He then
asked, "This is a joke...right?"

The Senator had good reason to believe
he was being subjected to a practical
joke since the General Election was only
three days away, and he was running for
re-election to his state senate seat.  
While the Senator may have first
suspected a joke, my well learned
suspicious nature made the whole thing
smell bad to me.  

I explained all that I knew about the
warrant to the Senator, and he stressed
that he could add nothing since he had
no idea what had caused a warrant to be
issued for his arrest.  The Senator simply
asked, "What do we do now?"  I
explained that, as a matter of law, I was
required to take him into custody.  The
Senator nodded and stated, "I'll do
whatever you say, Officer."  Now, here
was a guy who had been a senator for
many years -- a politician -- and he
wasn't giving me anything close to a hard
time.  Of course, I'd already determined
that I wanted to see the actual warrant,
before I put my handcuffs on this man.  

During our conversation, I learned that
the house was owned by the Senator,
but it was a vacant rental property.  It
was just a coincidence that I'd located
the Senator at the residence since he'd
only stopped by to check on the security
of the house.  I directed the Senator to
go home, call his attorney, and wait for
me to contact him.  Talk about a sincere
look of gratitude...the Senator thanked
me, and he assured me he would
anxiously await my return.

I stood at the counter in the Central
Records Division reading the probable
cause statement within the actual arrest
warrant.  Firstly, the charging document
had originally been issued as a criminal
summons by a court commissioner.  The
criminal summons simply required the
signature of the defendant to promise to
appear for trial...just like a traffic
citation.  Of course, since the Senator did
not reside at the address on the
summons, previous efforts to serve the
summons had been unsuccessful.  After
thirty days, and several unsuccessful
attempts to serve, the summons had
been returned to the court where a
District Court judge upgraded the
summons to an arrest warrant.

It was clear from the typed portion of the
document that the victim, or the court
commissioner, had identified the
defendant from property records,
because the court commissioner initially
typed the names of both the Senator
and his wife as the defendant.  Since only
one person goes on one charging
document, someone had crossed out the
name of the wife.  

The probable cause statement, itself, had
been written by the victim who was the
owner of another vacant house next to
the Senator's house.  The victim, like the
Senator on this day, had previously
stopped by her property to check its
security.  She found an electrical
extension cord running between her
house and the Senator's house.  The
suspect(s) had entered the victim's
house through a window and plugged the
cord into an outlet.  The other end of the
cord ran through a partially opened
window of the Senator's house.  The
victim was alleging theft of electricity.  
The charge of theft was incomplete.  The
top charge should have been burglary
since the victim's house had been
entered by the suspect(s).  Anyway, so
far, so good.

The part I liked best was the victim's
description of the police response.  The
victim identified the police officer by name
and badge number.  She described how
she showed the officer every physical
aspect of the offense.  She even listed
the central complaint number of the
report which the officer provided to her.  
Since I was right at the counter, I filled
out a request form for a copy of the
police report, and I handed it to the
police cadet.  Moments later, the cadet
returned with a copy of the officer's

It didn't take long to read that report.  
The offense box said, "Unfounded
Larceny."  The narrative was longer by
one word, "No larceny occurred."  

I immediately set about investigating the
incident since this was the first time it
received any police attention.  I soon
identified a suspect who, prior to the
offense, had been doing repairs to the
Senator's rental property.  During his
employment, the suspect had copied the
key to the front door.  After the repairs
were completed, the Senator had the
electricity turned off, but the suspect
returned and used his unauthorized key
to take up residence in the house.  When
the Senator was made aware of the
suspect's presence, the Senator ordered
him from the dwelling, and he had the
door lock changed.

My next stop was the District Court
where I met with the judge who issued
the arrest warrant.  The Judge, a very
competent one I might add, read the
results of my investigation with great
interest.  Shaking her head, the Judge
simply asked, "How did I miss that?"  She
was referring to missing the Senator's
name, and the circumstance of the
upcoming election.  The fact was that
criminal summonses being upgraded to
arrest warrants was a routine matter that
occurred in no small numbers.  Had she
recognized the circumstances, she would
have had the same questions I did, and
the summons would have received more
scrutiny, before it was upgraded to an
arrest warrant.

With the arrest warrant for the Senator
recalled, I set about obtaining the proper
warrants charging the proper suspect
with burglaries of both vacant houses.  
As for the Senator, he still had to suffer
the embarrassment of appearing before
the same judge to have the original
charge against him dismissed in open
court.  Of course, that Judge was just as
embarrassed as the Senator.
You'll probably agree that I did the right
thing by questioning the content of that
arrest warrant, but doing the right thing
will never make you immune from
criticism.  I received a fair amount of
criticism from some other police officers
and supervisors.  You'll learn that some
police officers, no matter their experience
or rank, take a pretty narrow view of a
lot of things.  Those same officers and
supervisors considered my actions to be
worse than the total incompetence
displayed by the original police officer
who did absolutely nothing and topped it
off with a blatantly false report.  That
incompetent officer escaped all criticism,
or worse, through the only competent
thing he'd probably ever done as a police
officer...he resigned.

Before you even become a police officer,
you must realize that your credibility will
be the most important thing you own.  
Every report you write will follow you
forever, and if you knowingly make a
false report, you'll be doing a grave
injustice to yourself and those you
serve.  Most police officers who write
false reports, as in the example above,
justify that despicable act as a matter of
expediency, because they don't view the
incidents of sufficient importance.  Big or
small, a lie is a lie, and if you do it, it
makes you a liar.
"When police officers, whether from
dishonesty or simple laziness,
knowingly submit false reports, they
place themselves and others in
jeopardy." ~ Barry M. Baker
Copyright © 2015  Barry M. Baker  

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