Here's what you've got to understand.  When
something which is normally minor turns into
something major, your involvement in the minor
stage becomes a point of extreme interest.  If you
do everything you're supposed to do at the minor
stage, that should, and -- most of the time -- keep
you out of trouble.  However, as in the example,
when things turn sour due to any number of
circumstances, your credibility becomes paramount.  
There is no doubt that one or more members of the
example's group previously speculated that you
may not have even responded to the 911 hang up
call.  In fact, if you'd been given the benefit of any
doubt, that meeting would have never taken place.

The example gives you a glimpse into what can
happen when the pressure is on, and there's no
good news forthcoming from an investigation.  You
might wonder why no one in the group was aware
that you'd written a report.  While some probably
didn't even know the CAD code indicating that a
report had been written, none of them were looking
for a report.  While the contents of your report
could provide no knew evidence to aid the
investigation, it did completely solidify your
credibility, and it verified, without any doubt, your
efforts on the previous evening.  By the way, you'll
probably never hear another word about the
incident from anyone.  Ironically, instead of having
your head, your bosses will spin your competent
actions as a positive aspect of the investigation.

You're not going to write a report for every call you
handle, but you should understand that the MI is
always there when you feel that a report would be
appropriate to protect and enhance your credibility.  
In those instances when it's totally your choice to
document your actions on an MI, it will always be a
judgement call.  As your experience grows, you'll
become ever more aware when to take the time to
utilize the MI for your own benefit.
You'll be working in the era of 911.  I'm not talking
about the terrorist related 911...I'm referring to the
911 emergency telephone number.  In most cases,
your communications division will be able to identify
the location or residence from which a 911 call is

You're about midway through your 4 x 12 shift
when you're assigned to investigate a "911 hang
up" from a residence.  Someone from the residence
dialed 911; however, the caller hung up before any
conversation with the 911 operator.  You knock on
the front door of the residence, and a middle aged
woman answers the door.  While the woman's
physical appearance is quite normal, you
immediately sense a level of emotional agitation.  
When you state the reason for your response, the
woman denies making the call.  Once you establish
that the woman is the only person inside the home,
she continues to deny making the 911 call.

As you diplomatically explain why you believe she
did make the call, the level of her agitation grows.  
She's not upset with you.  She's more upset
because she's caught in a lie, and your gentle
pressure finally wins out as she admits that she did
make the call.  She now seems more relieved as you
begin to question her as to why she made the call.  
While not as tense as she was initially, she assures
you that she made a mistake insisting that no
emergency existed.  As much as you try, she will
not tell you the reason for her call to 911.  When
you offer to inspect the inside of her home, she
smiles and states, "That won't be necessary officer,  
There's no one else here."  The tone of her
response is calm and appreciative indicating to you
that she is being truthful.

While you've handled a number of 911 hang up calls
where everything was resolved to your satisfaction,
this one just doesn't set well with you.  Before you
depart, you give the woman your business card,
and you even write your personal cell phone number
on the card.  You tell the woman you have four
hours left on your shift during which time she can
contact you directly if she should decide that she
does need police assistance.

When you return to your car, you prepare to clear
the call.  It's pretty simple.  All you need to do is
submit a code indicating that no police service was
needed, and go back in service.  As you sit there
with questions nagging at you, you decide to do
some more checking.  It just so happens that you
have some good capabilities on your mobile
computer.  You soon find that no previous calls for
police service are data based for either the
residence or under the woman's name.  Now...there
is absolutely no reason why you should submit a
written report regarding what you did on this call
since it doesn't require a written report, and you did
everything you could to resolve the call.  In fact,
you did resolve the call giving it more effort than
many others would.  Even though there's no
requirement for a report, you decide to document
all the details listed above.  You return to service,
and you end your shift without any further contact
with the woman.

The next day you arrive for your 4 x 12 shift, and
you see three television news vans parked alongside
the station house.  All three have their microwave
antennas raised, and the reporters and their crews
are scurrying around preparing for their six-o'clock
newscast.  You're barely out of your car when
you're greeted by your sergeant.  The sergeant's
greeting is serious and to the point.  He tells you
that you're to immediately respond with him to the
district commander's office.  Your sergeant can't tell
you the reason you're wanted in the office since he
was not given any explanation for the meeting.

You enter the office which you remember as being
rather large.  Today, the office seems much
smaller...probably because there are so many
people seated inside.  There's only one chair which
is unoccupied, and your district commander politely
tells you to be seated.  Your sergeant, with no
further seating available, steps back and stands
near the door...probably for a quick getaway.  The
introductions are brief.  Aside from your
commander, his commander, two homicide
detectives, two detectives from the department's
Internal Affairs Unit, and a lawyer from the
department's Legal Department are in attendance.

To say that you feel intimidated would be an
understatement.  Of course, intimidation is the
primary purpose for this whole scenario.  You can
be certain of one thing, something big is up, and
your welfare is not on this group's list of priorities.  
In the seconds preceding the beginning of the
inquisition, your mind is racing trying to think of
something you did, or didn't do, that would create
this really uncomfortable situation.

Your anxiety begins to drain away as one of the
homicide detectives begins his questioning.  All the
questions are directed at your handling of that 911
hang up call you responded to the previous
evening.  You quickly realize that none of these
people are aware that you submitted a written
report regarding the incident.  As the detective asks
question number four, you respond by asking,
"Have you read the report I submitted on this

Talk about a reversal of fortune.  The expressions
on the faces around you are priceless.  After a few
seconds of shock and silence, the whispering and
seat squirming begins.  The district commander and
his boss turn their heads away from you for a brief
whispered conversation.  The district commander
then turns and says to you, "You're excused
Officer.  I'll get back with you later."

You soon learn that the lady from the night before
is missing, and evidence has been developed to
indicate that she may well be a victim of foul play.  
You also learn that the woman has a lot of friends
in high places and that investigators don't yet have
a worthwhile clue in solving what is so far a
complete mystery.
You're going to work with a lot of police officers
who think their time is much too
valuable to waste on writing reports -- particularly
reports they don't have to write.  You must guard
against falling into this mindset.  As a police officer,
documenting the facts of any incident will never,
never be a waste of your time.

Your department will designate those incidents
which will always require written reports.  For
example, one department might require its officers
to submit a written report for every report of a
robbery -- or other serious incident -- even if your
investigation cannot discover any evidence
indicating that a robbery occurred.  Another
department may require only a code submitted
orally to your dispatcher, or entered into your
mobile computer, under the same unfounded

In the first instance, the purpose for your
submission of an MI is simply a factor in maintaining
the integrity of the department's reporting system.  
The thinking is that it's a lot harder to "blow off" an
incident when you're required to submit a report
giving reasons why the call is unfounded.  In the
case of coding calls, no details are required, so an
officer need not overtly lie, or lie by omission, in a
written report.  In either case, whether your report
is written or coded, a lie is a lie if you "blow off" a
call where evidence exists to indicate the crime,
which would require written reporting, did occur.
While the MI can be used as a quality control
feature for a department's reporting system, you
should understand that the MI affords you an even
greater benefit.  You're going to handle incidents on
a regular basis; wherein, written reporting will not
be required.  You will encounter these incidents
either my way of being assigned by CAD (Computer
Aided Dispatch), or you'll come upon them [on
view] during your routine patrol activities.

As you may have already noticed, the credibility of
police officers is being attacked all the time.  A
certain amount of credibility will be attached to you
by virtue of your position as a police officer;
however, that amount is minimal and vulnerable.  It
will always be your responsibility, as an individual
police officer, to establish, maintain, and protect
your credibility.
There aren't too many things worse for a police
officer than to have to explain your actions -- after
the fact -- when something that seemed like
nothing at the time of your initial involvement turns
into something major, tragic, or even catastrophic.  
Whenever you find yourself explaining your actions
regarding a particular incident without the benefit of
previously submitted documentation, provided by
you, your credibility may be attacked relentlessly.  
The level of the attack on your credibility will depend
upon the severity of the incident's final   outcome;
the political, social, financial status of parties
involved, and, last but not least, the extent of news

While you'll never become a mind reader during
your police career, you will, early on, begin
developing a healthy amount of skepticism.  That
skepticism will soon aid you in identifying situations
where all the pieces just don't fit together.  We're
not talking about logic here, because you'll rarely
deal with people who think or act logically.  
However, whenever you cannot logically place all the
pieces together, you should continue your efforts
to do so; until, you've exhausted all reasonable
efforts.  On those occasions when you go as far as
you can go without a conclusion to your personal
satisfaction, the MI is available for you to document
your efforts...just in case.  Just in case...something
unforeseen occurs which could expose you to
criticism and place you in a situation where you
have to defend your credibility.

Let's look at an example where your submission of
an MI, when not required, would definitely be to
your benefit:
The MI, or the Miscellaneous Incident Report, will
quickly become very familiar to you.  The MI can be
used to document any incident, situation, or
circumstance that may, or may not, be designated
by a particular title.

The importance of the MI cannot be overstated.  
Police officers are inherently lazy when it comes to
writing reports.  While the MI affords you the
opportunity to document just about anything you
can imagine, most police officers fail to take
advantage of the MI to document questionable
circumstances in incidents when reporting is not
Incident Report
"You're going to work with a lot of police
officers who think their time is much too
valuable to waste on writing reports --
particularly reports they don't have to write."
~ Barry M. Baker
Copyright © 2019  Barry M. Baker