Statements from Officers Following Critical Incidents

On March 13, 2012, the NOPD sent out a press release stating that they had not been able to take a statement from an officer involved in a critical incident.  My phone buzzed shortly thereafter to alert me to “Breaking News” that the NOPD has asked, but not been able to take a statement from an officer involved in a critical incident.  Is this was passes for “Breaking News” these days?

My first reaction after being amazed by what qualifies as “Breaking News” is to point out that the United States Constitution, in particular Amendment V, clearly gives every citizen in the United States the lawful authority to say he or she does not wish to give a voluntary statement in a criminal investigation.  We know it applies to every citizen of the United States thanks to Amendment XIV.

The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that could be perceived as a smart ass response.  So, in an effort to keep this from becoming a thesis of sorts, I would like to relay several passages from the IACP Officer Involved Shooting Guidelines:

From Section 1, Purpose:

The field experience of members of the IACP Police Psychological Services Section, along with scientific research, suggests that following these guidelines can reduce the probability of long-lasting psychological problems resulting from such incidents (officer-involved shootings).

From Section 3, At the Scene and Immediately Following, Paragraph 3.2:

Involved officers should be encouraged to step immediately away from the scene and any media attention and be sensitively transitioned to a safe and supportive environment.  Instead of driving themselves, they should be provided with transportation.  If returning immediately to the department is not practical, they should be allowed to choose another appropriately private and safe remote location.  Above all, officers should not be isolated.  Instead, they should be accompanied by supportive peers and supervisors who can assist them in following agency policies regarding talking about the incident before the initial investigative interviews.  If officers themselves have an immediate need to talk about the incident, they should be encouraged to do so solely with individuals with whom they have legally privileged confidentiality.  Consider both the officers’ preferences and the integrity of the investigation when deciding if an when the officers are to return to the scene.

From Section 4, Investigative Period, Paragraph 4.1:

Shootings and other use-of-force incidents can result in heightened physical and emotional reactions for the participants.  It is recommended that officers involved in such incidents be given a minimum of three days leave, either administrative or through regular days off, in order to marshal their natural coping skills to manage the emotional impact of the incident prior to return to duty or the preparation of a use-of-force or incident report.  Those who are present at the scene but did not discharge their weapons may also be emotionally impacted by the incident and may benefit from a period of administrative leave.  It is important that the officers and the public understand that administrative leave is a routine procedure and not a disciplinary suspension.

From Paragraph 4.2:

While officers may be asked to provide pertinent information soon after a shooting to aid the initial investigative process, it is suggested that they have some recovery time before providing a full formal statement.  Depending on the nature of the incident and the emotional status of the officer, this can range from a few hours to several days.  Officers will often benefit from at least one night’s sleep prior to being interviewed.  Officers who have been afforded these opportunities are likely to provide more coherent and accurate statements.  Providing a secure setting, insulated from the press and curious coworkers, is important during the interview process.

From Paragraph 4.9:

Members of the community, including the media, may benefit from education regarding procedures and protocols related to police use of force.  It is recommended that police agencies assist the community in these efforts by providing information about factors involved in police use of force such as officer safety issues and pertinent laws.

Information about the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) can be found here.

The Fraternal Order of Police and the Crescent City Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police recommend that officers involved in critical incidents call the FOP or an FOP attorney immediately following a critical incident.  As we have witnessed here, these situations can be emotionally charged on many different levels.  Consulting with an FOP attorney provides the officer with someone they can talk to about the incident with legally privileged confidentiality.  Furthermore, it is my experience that police officers want to explain their actions.  However, it simply may not be in anyone’s best interest for that to be done, at least not initially.  Finally with regard to this topic, the FOP attorney is well educated and trained to provide advice and analysis about giving statements moving forward.  These can be complicated legal issues.  A legal professional is best suited to provide this counsel.

And for more “Breaking News“…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s