Investigators can establish a good connection with patrol by letting them know the outcome of a case, especially the positive ones.
FEATURED IN LEADERSHIP
From the late 1960s through the early 1970s, the federal government offered a three-month early release from the armed forces to any GI who joined a police department. I was granted a three-day pass from the Air Force and walked into the lobby of the Hartford (Conn.) Police Department in full uniform. A big, burly police sergeant at the front desk reluctantly removed the cigar from his mouth and growled, What do you want?
I want to be a cop, I replied.
The chief of police happened to be walking by.
Hire that kid! he said. A short time later, I was out of the Air Force and walking a beat.
Back in those days, the premier position in the department wasn t sergeant, lieutenant or captain. Everyone wanted to be a detective. Detectives wore plainclothes, drove unmarked cars, had partners and handled all the big cases.
Detectives weren t specialists, but generalists. They handled all investigations into major crimes. The operating principle was that all police officers are investigators, and in most departments, patrol officers conducted all preliminary investigations.
When a Part 1 crime (i.e., murder, rape, robbery, etc.) was committed, departments often referred the case to a specialist-detective primarily because it was too time consuming for patrol officers. As the need for patrol services increased, many larger departments further specialized by assigning detectives to functional areas, such as crimes against persons (homicide, rape, robbery and assault), crimes against property (burglary, auto theft and arson), vice and narcotics, organized crime, juvenile, etc.
Departments often augmented this highly specialized approach by assigning patrol officers to a general investigations division an extension of patrol to follow up on all but the most serious cases, which were still reserved for detectives. Now with community-oriented policing, there s a trend to assign detectives to an area patrol commander, rather than a chief of detectives, with the theory detectives will work more closely with neighborhood residents and patrol officers.
Your Duty to Guide the Way
When I came on the job the detective s position was prestigious. Why? Because the detectives back then were class acts. They were true experts in the investigative craft and had a keen understanding of their responsibility to act the part of a detective with both the public and department members. Cops didn t have the retirement plans we do today, and it wasn t unusual for detectives to be in their late 60s or even older. Most didn t retire; they died while still on the job.
When I was promoted to detective, my first partner was 70 years old and had forgotten more about criminal investigation than I ever learned. When we responded to my first murder case, we worked 14 hours straight and then returned to the station. I thought we were going home. My 70-year-old partner said, Go in the closet and get the cots.
Cots? I asked.
He smiled. We re sleeping here tonight. If we don t get them [the bad guys] in 72 hours, it gets much harder.
The old-time detectives often bunked out in the hallway on old army cots. I got the cots. Within three hours my partner woke me up, and we hit the streets again.
Over the years, I was fortunate to have been trained and mentored by magnificent people who thought police work was a way of life, not merely a job. They lived by a code of honor that may be out of fashion today, but I m convinced it s what many officers are searching for.
What separated the old-time detectives from others was their clear sense of responsibility to pass the baton. Every one of them mentored younger officers. They modeled correct behavior and coached, trained and passed down not only the investigative aspects of the job, but the traditions and way of life.
If you re in an investigative position in your department, someone higher up the ladder recognized you possess the intrinsic qualities that no paper and pencil examination can assess: self discipline, personal integrity, street smarts, the ability to work with a minimum of direct supervision and a demonstrated love for the department. You also demonstrate superior skills or the potential to acquire them. The department has probably sent you to specialized training in a range of areas, such as search and seizure, interview and interrogation, forensics, crime scenes and firearms, and even more specialized instruction if you re assigned to specific areas, such as burglary, art theft, arson and computer crime.
With increased training, status and perks comes the responsibility to pass on what you know to others. Older, more experienced cops in positions of power and influence honor their own mentors and trainers by taking a younger officer under their wing and showing them the way.
Here are some things you can do to mentor officers:
- Take a complex investigation involving circumstantial evidence and show officers how to establish probable cause in an affidavit in support of an arrest or search-and-seizure warrant;
- Teach officers how to properly search a crime scene for evidence;
- Discuss how forensic evidence such as gun-shot residue, hairs, fibers, semen stains, footprints, ballistics, DNA and blood can be used in a criminal investigation;
- Demonstrate how to take a written statement from a victim;
- Provide training on interview and interrogation techniques, confessions, tape recording and videotaping, and the practical application of providing Miranda rights to suspects;
- Demonstrate the proper way to use physical and digital photographs in a photographic display with crime victims;
- Discuss what post-mortem lividity, rigor mortis and gunshot, knife and ligature wounds can indicate in a criminal investigation;
- Take officers through a complex investigative file in which a subject was arrested and convicted of a major crime. Review all the reports that demonstrate a progression from the occurrence of the crime to conviction; and
- Discuss how to appropriately use state and federal law enforcement agencies (the FBI, DEA, ATF, etc.) in local investigations.
If you gain officers trust and confidence, you can accomplish something far more important than teaching them the technical aspects of criminal investigation. You ll have an opportunity to mentor officers on their professional demeanor, communication style, work ethic, deportment, internal and external politics, when to make an issue out of something and when not to, and so on.
This is what I mean by showing the way. Making a significant difference in another person s life is not only rewarding, but the responsibility of all of us who have chosen this way of life.
Improving Relationships with Patrol
Regardless of the assignment, the nature of detective work often results in detectives becoming isolated from patrol officers. It s not unusual for patrol to complain that investigators don t readily share information about wanted suspects or the progress (or lack of progress) made on major cases in which patrol officers were the initial responders.
In some departments, responding patrol officers who arrest a bank-robbery suspect, for example, are told by detectives, We ll take it from here, meaning the detectives will take over both the case and the credit for the apprehension. This attitude leads to resentment and poor morale, and it diminishes the prestige of the police-detective position.
Investigators, especially those in supervisory or command positions, should routinely liaison with their counterparts in the patrol division. This requires more than an occasional meeting. It requires:
- Analysis by both patrol and investigative commanders of how they can strengthen communications between investigations and patrol;
- Identification of areas investigative staff can provide training to patrol officers; and
Having detectives give a series of 15-minute mini training sessions at roll call on some of the areas discussed earlier in this article can improve the relationship between investigations and patrol. Requiring investigators to provide training in specialized areas broadens their cognitive thinking skills and ultimately strengthens their ability to explain a series of complex facts.
One of the best ways to make a strong connection with patrol is to let them know how a case turned out, especially the positive ones. Patrol officers often wonder what happened after they worked on a major report, and they really appreciate hearing the rest of the story.
Knowing how to do something is quite different than teaching others how to do it. Teaching enhances report writing and oral communications skills.
Bottom line: When investigative and patrol officers work together, crime decreases and apprehension rates increase.