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

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 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.
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

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

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