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
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 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.
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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.
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 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 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
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: