FEATURED IN LEADERSHIP
I've been getting Law Officer for close to a year now and enjoy your column. I work for a state agency responsible for fire/arson/explosion investigations. We re certified police officers with the same training as the state troopers. Problem is, our administration doesn t approve of us doing police work.
I'll give you an example. I responded to assist state police who were trying to catch up with a guy involved in multiple hit-and-run injury accidents. None of their units were close. The guy passed me, I threw on the lights and he took off. He tried to make a quick turn, missed and hit a tree. He got out and fled, and his car rolled back into mine. I got the guy and instructed him in the ways of compliance. I got chewed out when I got back because I got involved.
This pretty much happens any time I back up anyone or pull someone over for traffic violations. On the flip side, any time any one of my fellow brothers get into something or need help, guess who they re calling.
I ve thought about leaving and joining the state police or another agency. I would like to stay here because I enjoy what I do, but I m getting fed up with basically not being allowed to be a cop. I m not sure our administration will ever change. I d really like to hear what you think about this.
Bullethead responds: Call me Sir again, and you'll be conducting your next arson investigation up your own rump because I m gonna shove a book of matches up there and light them with my boot! Good question though, so let s get on with it.
It sounds like you have a pretty interesting job figuring out who s torching and exploding things. My first advice: Don t get too crazy making waves or looking to leave because that s an important job and we need some journeymen working it. You also have no idea how jacked up things may be on the other side.
Your agency pays you to investigate. It doesn t pay you to make traffic stops, write tickets or do any number of other things the troopers do.
You seem to have forgotten why you went through the training the troopers go through, so listen up and Ol Bullethead will explain it again. In the course of investigating all those arsons and explosions, you must be able to write warrants, arrest after the fact based on probable cause (something not covered by citizen s arrests), conduct interviews and interrogations, etc. When you identify a suspect, you must be able to stop them if they re rolling, and if they fight, you must be able to defend yourself. That s why you have the training, not so you can go out and act like a trooper whenever the mood strikes you.
If you take time away from investigating to go make traffic stops and issue tickets, you ve just taken time away from your case load. I can already hear you sigh and see the smartass smirk on your face because it takes only 10 minutes to make a stop and scratch the cite. Don t forget court, though that takes up half of your morning. Add the subpoena process, court prep and so on, and what started as a 10-minute traffic stop has turned into a whole bunch of man-hours.
Cover situations are different. If Ol Bullethead needs cover now, everyone who wears a uniform, carries a badge or can throw a punch better show up sooner rather than later. If I m dealing with something that requires an extra body to be safe, all I want is a cop in uniform. When plainclothes people show up, it distracts from what s happening. The crooks aren t sure about the plainclothes cop, and the witnesses have no clue. When things go sideways, more uniforms are always better.
The situation you described is a bit of a gray area. No cops were in trouble, but the guy was doing damage. Sounds like he split when you hit the lights though, so that means you started the pursuit and brought all the liability onto your agency. You got into a traffic collision, and then you kicked the guy s ass. From a risk management standpoint, you hit all the bases, and you damaged an agency asset. That will earn a butt chewing every time. Consider this: Could you have kept an eye on the guy and brought in the uniformed troops?
Go talk to some troopers and listen to their gripes. Many would love an investigative assignment like yours, and they ll have plenty of issues with their agency. If another officer is in trouble, go help, but use some judgment you don t need to respond outside of an emergency. If they want to chew you out over an emergency, let em you know you did right.
Remember: You re an investigator, not a trooper, so drop the traffic stops. Act like an investigator, be safe and go clear that case load.