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You’re in Trouble: Now What?

You’re in Trouble: Now What?

Dr. Richard Weinblatt

The First Stop

The first stop on the journey is usually the officer’s supervisor. In some departments, uniformed patrol supervisors can handle the complaint, while more egregious allegations need to be forwarded up the chain of command or to the professional standards or internal affairs unit.

Your agency should treat all complaining parties with the respect and fairness you would hope would be afforded to your family members if they were to come forward with an allegation. Only by doing so, will the process be respected and the findings have credibility.

At this point, it should be readily apparent that any documentation you have concerning your actions is vital to your defense. Police reports should contain a tremendous amount of relevant (key word – relevant) detail. Police reports that are vague and lack important detail are not helpful in the criminal prosecution and can be damaging to you during any civil tort action taken against you and or your agency. Other types of evidence, such as patrol car dash cams, can go a long way towards quickly resolving a complaint.

For example, as a police chief, I received complaints of officer conduct during traffic stops. A review of the in-car video footage was all it took usually to get at the truth and exonerate the officer in question. A good administrator will examine all available evidence to be able to come to a fair and impartial determination.

Generally speaking, officers in heavily unionized departments, such as in the Northeast portion of the United States, are afforded a little more protection. Officers in right to work states, such as in the Southeast, have less recourse. In the Southeast, many of the elected sheriffs, as ruled by the courts in North Carolina, have more ability to discipline and terminate their deputies, who are serving at will, than police chiefs do with municipal police officers.

Depending on the severity of the allegation and the supervisory staff’s preliminary determination of that misconduct’s probability of occurrence, the employee may be suspended with or without pay pending further investigation.

If the agency is following an accepted standard of internal investigation procedures, the accused officer will have the right to have the accusation or complaint shown to him or her in written form. The officer would also be interviewed at a reasonable hour or within their normal working hours, as well as be afforded reasonable breaks during the interview.

Next Page: Know Your Legal Precedents


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  • Ronwestptjune2011_max50

    CaptainOrso

    over 3 years ago

    32 Comments

    As long ago as 2000, The Feds (I THINK Dept. of Labor) stated every time you walk outside you had a 78% chance of being on a video, camera or satellite. That was 11 years ago...Act like you always are...

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    BForJuvCor

    over 3 years ago

    846 Comments

    Great article. Thank you Dr. Weinblatt

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    dcreasey

    over 3 years ago

    46 Comments

    I'll second that tape recorder comment. Now that have audio/video recorders that clip to your lapel. Those are great and hardly noticable....

  • Csi_max50

    haim357

    almost 4 years ago

    72 Comments

    Very good article thank you Richard,

  • 1410_max50

    CITYPATROL1099

    almost 4 years ago

    332 Comments

    I been SAVED BY THE BOOK many times. Several of my complaints stem from the Sgt NOT KNOWING THE BOOK, or keeping updated on a policy change.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    SHARRI8

    almost 4 years ago

    106 Comments

    LETS HOPE THATS WHAT HAPPENED IN MY CASE IN WILLIAMSTOWN WEST VIRGIINIA....THAT THE TRUTH WAS TOLD.....FOR THE SAKE OF MY GRAND-DAUGHTER.

  • Officer_w_pavey_max50

    napd270

    almost 4 years ago

    72 Comments

    One of the best things that I ever carried was a tape recorder. I can tell you that helped me out on several occasions. Another thing was to join the Legal Defense Fund. I joined it when it first came out, but I never had to used it during my carrer. I still thought that it was money well spent.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    mp5811

    almost 4 years ago

    12 Comments

    Very important and informative article. Should your problem stretch beyond legal problems and encompass substance abuse, dont hesitate to contact Safecallnow. This is a confidential crisis referral service based in WA State. Laws here SPECIFICALLY protect callers and are confidential under state law RCW 43.101.125 and you will ALWAYS speak to a live person directly involved with Public Safety.
    http://www.safecallnow.org/ or call 206-459-3020 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
    Stay safe.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    almost 4 years ago

    Agree with svlnj: Every agency had a dick who holds a grudge against subordinates in general. We had one here as well. That bastage is gone and I'm still standing. The dude was such a d-bag, behind his back nobody had any respect for this man. He took a job with a small dept upon retirement and eventually took a shot at an unarmed motorist who ran from a traffic stop. It's laughable because he would have tried to fire anyone under his charge if they had done the same thing on his watch. Like I said, this loser was a huge d-bag and most wish him nothing but torment for the rest of his miserable life. It's sad because you don't have to be that way with people.....especially those who you work with. God has a special place for losers like this.

    Thanks Richard, good stuff to review for all LE.

  • 1979_max50

    Robocop33

    almost 4 years ago

    14642 Comments

    Great article my Brother. It is very difficult to be a LEO, especially when you first start out. With cell phone video etc it is even more difficult to defend yourself against an edited or a portion of your actions being shown. This is why I firmly believe that you should have a IA review board that consists of not only a few senior Officers but also some retired Officers who understand the streets and have so much experience.

  • Mwg_-_copy_max50

    nracfi

    almost 4 years ago

    96 Comments

    This is why it is good to have a back-up like the National Police Defense Foundation (http://www.npdf.org/) in addition to your PBA or FOP legal representation!

  • John_groh_max50

    wiseass0282

    almost 4 years ago

    10976 Comments

    Bump darsavmo on this one. And I would add that I have found that people are born with common sense. It is not something that can be taught. So many of the young Officers that worked for me over the years did not have it and it ended up with them causing them self many problems over the years.

  • Thinker_max50

    darsavmo

    almost 4 years ago

    11358 Comments

    The most important thing to have and use in LE is common sense. Have and use that and have 50% of what it takes to survive a LE career. Then come knowing both the law and your department policies. Last but not least is integrity. Most officers go down for integrity problems, usually lying about or trying to cover up your mistake, not the actual mistake itself. I had a Chief once tell me, if you don't get an occasional complaint, you probably aren't doing your job. But learn from your mistakes, don't repeat them, and with maturity and wisdom the complaints will be further and farther between...

  • Ship_patch_max50

    KB3MMX

    about 4 years ago

    136 Comments

    With how hostile the Media, some of the public and special interest groups are toward LE, it
    seems very likely to happen sometime during your career nowadays.

  • Patch_max50

    svlnj

    over 4 years ago

    4 Comments

    What about cases where the administration has a vendetta against an individual ???

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