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 received.

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

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 incident?"

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,
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 circumstance.  

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

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 coverage.

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 required.
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 © 2015  Barry M. Baker  

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