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You’re in Trouble: Now What?

You’re in Trouble: Now What?

Dr. Richard Weinblatt

So What’s Next?

Following the conclusion of the investigation, findings and recommendations are made and forwarded up the chain of command with one of the four (or similar) following dispositions:

1) Sustained: The officer did as the allegation said. 2) Not Sustained: The allegation could not be proven or unproven 3) Unfounded: The allegation is false. The officer wasn’t present during the allegation or the actions did not occur. 4) Exonerated: The officer did the act or omission alleged, but that it did not constitute a violation of policy.

Most agencies will provide a written copy of the findings to the officer, as well as to the originator of the complaint. The disposition also tends to make its way for a period of time into performance reviews, as well as to specialized assignment transfer requests.

Employees in a probationary employment status with a finding of sustained are particularly vulnerable during the disciplinary phase as their protections are few, if any. In most places, there is little recourse as a probationary officer can be terminated at any time during that probationary period. Probation is normally pegged at one year, although there are a few departments where it can run for two years. It can also be extended under remedial or disciplinary instances.

If it is sustained and the employee is terminated, he or she (if off probation) usually has the ability within a certain time frame to appeal or grieve the matter to a neutral party such as the civil service board or the city manager.

If the sustained allegation results in a suspension, departments usually have guidelines as to how that suspension is served. For example, with a smaller suspension punishment, the employee may be able to use accrued vacation time to settle the matter. For longer periods, they may be able to only utilize half.

Some departments will send the employee to remedial training. This is seen quite a bit for officers who are involved in on-duty vehicle crashes who are sent to driver training. Officers who use inappropriate language are often enrolled in human diversity or sensitivity training.

Being in trouble is no fun either as a teenager or an adult law enforcer. The key difference for the officer or deputy sheriff is to remain calm and be professional in the face of the allegation. Emotional or irrational actions will only lend credibility to any complaint and not help the search for the truth or your service to the community.

Dr. Richard Weinblatt, a criminal justice educator and former police chief, has written articles and provided media commentary for national and local media since 1989. He can be reached via

  • Ronwestptjune2011_max50


    about 4 years ago


    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


    about 4 years ago


    Great article. Thank you Dr. Weinblatt

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    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


    about 4 years ago


    Very good article thank you Richard,

  • 1410_max50


    about 4 years ago


    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


    about 4 years ago



  • Officer_w_pavey_max50


    about 4 years ago


    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


    about 4 years ago


    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. or call 206-459-3020 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
    Stay safe.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 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


    about 4 years ago


    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


    about 4 years ago


    This is why it is good to have a back-up like the National Police Defense Foundation ( in addition to your PBA or FOP legal representation!

  • John_groh_max50


    about 4 years ago


    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


    about 4 years ago


    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


    over 4 years ago


    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


    almost 5 years ago


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

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