Recently I got assigned to a new shift and my supervisor is driving me nuts over my report writing. I never really had problems before, but to hear this guy, you’d think I didn’t make it past the third grade. Sure, I misspell some words, and sometimes I could be a little more detailed, but I think he’s being unreasonable. He’s even trying to get me to do follow-up, such as witness checks or suspect interviews. Isn’t that the detective’s job?
I tried turning in my reports late so they would be reviewed by the next shift (my old supervisor) and that worked for a while, but then I got accused of supervisor shopping. Here’s what I don’t get: If my reports were OK before, why aren’t they OK now? You just put in the basics and testify to the more detailed stuff if it goes to court, right? It’s just a police report, not a script for a TV show. Do you think I should try to get back with my old supervisor and forget this guy?
Dear Basic Boob:
When I accepted this assignment it was my understanding that I’d help cops by answering questions related to tactics, policing, departments and maybe some general-info stuff. I did not realize I might also have to deal with a no-load such as you. I’ll chalk that up to live and learn, and maybe I can either straighten you out or convince you to leave police work and go into selling shoes or flipping hamburgers.
Regarding your question, I don’t even know where to begin. Before you read any further, do us all a favor and say, “Would you like to see that one in a size nine?” While you’re at it, go and find your former supervisor and get him to say, “Would you like fries with that?”
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall reading anything from TV’s “South Park” in a court decision. I’m also guessing that neither Detective McFadden nor Officer Soto thought the arrests they were making would eventually end up as two of the preeminent Supreme Court decisions ever to affect law enforcement. I’m sorry, are those references a bit over your head, Basic Boob? Try Terry vs. Ohio for Detective McFadden and Whren vs. The United States for Officer Soto. Now, if these two hard-working cops were no-loads like you, we still wouldn’t be able to stop and frisk people or go anywhere near a pretext stop. Wouldn’t that just suck?
Clean that nasty yellow stuff out of your ears and pay attention while I run down a list of the people who consider a police report just a tad more important than a TV script. Start with every taxpayer who expects the police to do their job and do it well. Next, how about the young lady whose eye is swollen shut because her beer-swilling boyfriend lost it when some kicker missed a field goal in the final seconds of a game? Last, Officer Boob, how about you? You might get called to investigate the young lady’s black eye, and her beer-swilling boyfriend might not go with the program. I’m sure you avoid this sort of thing as much as possible, but you just might end up having to stomp this guy into cuffs—this is police work we’re discussing, and this sort of thing happens from time to time. A year or two later, when you’re the defendant in a federal civil-rights trial and the young lady with the formerly black eye, now the mother of her beer-swilling boyfriend’s children, testifies against you, you might wish you had a whole lot of details in your report.
That’s right, the case got kicked by the DA because your report was full of holes. You survived the internal investigation with just a slap because your department didn’t want to admit your former supervisor was all jacked up when he signed off on the report. Unfortunately for you, your city just hired a new city attorney, and based on your report, she thinks your use of force was way outside of policy. She doesn’t want the city to take the hit, so now you’re on your own. Our nice young victim has her mind on one thing: moving herself, the beer boxer and their kids into your house! This is the reality of modern police work.
We can use this same example to discuss how important a little witness check might be. Let’s suspend reality for a second and pretend you’re a hardworking cop who reports to a good supervisor. Your witness check revealed a few witnesses who heard you move through several levels of force and tell the guy to stop resisting 17 times. They also told you that he smacks her every Sunday after the game, but she is too afraid to call the cops. Since we’ve suspended reality, we can pretend you took meticulous notes from the witnesses and the victim, and even wrote a good report. Now the story ends with you getting some extra money for going to court on your time off; the drunken boxer getting jail time to reflect on the stupidity of punching his lady and fighting the po-po; and you getting recognition by your department.
All right, I haven’t been nice here, and I’ll make no apologies for that. I love this profession for what it gives me personally, for the manner in which it allows me to provide for my family and for how it allows me to help people. I admit I have a difficult time with people who don’t take it seriously, and frankly, I’d be happy if all of them found something else to do. If I haven’t convinced you to leave police work yet, maybe there’s some hope for you. Here’s what you need to do: Avoid your former supervisor like the plague. Don’t even say hi. Go to your new supervisor and beg him to teach you how to be a good cop. Hand-carry all of your reports directly to him and go back and ask about them. Don’t make your supervisor come looking for you! It’s either that, or you better start checking the help-wanted ads.
Got a question or complaint?
Let Bullethead hear about it. He’ll give you his opinion with both barrels. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax him at 619/699-6246.