False
Reports
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 s
tood 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
morning.

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 report.

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  
CareerPoliceOfficer.com