National Police Week Information and Updates

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) is proud to present the full schedule for National Police Week 2022. Although we’re a few months out, preparations are in full swing. Take a look at the lineup of events, and find out how to register for key events like the Annual Candlelight Vigil. Scroll for more news and information.


What is National Police Week?

National Police Week occurs every May, and in 2022 we will be commemorating it with live, in-person events. From May 11–16, the National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum will hold ceremonies, including the 34th Annual Candlelight Vigil, to honor the fallen officers whose names have recently been added to the Memorial.

National Police Week is a collaborative effort of many organizations dedicated to honoring America’s law enforcement community, including the Fraternal Order of Police (F.O.P.) and Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.).


34th Annual Candlelight Vigil

Friday, May 13th will be dedicated to the 34th Annual Candlelight Vigil on the National Mall. Together, we will honor the officers who made the ultimate sacrifice. Their names will be read, with reverence, by high-ranking government and law enforcement officials. The ceremony will begin at 8pm.

This year, we are asking those who are not registered for the C.O.P.S. conference to register to attend the Candlelight Vigil here. Survivors, federal, state, and local government officials, law enforcement personnel, and the general public are welcome to sign up here.


Visit the Museum!

During National Police Week, the National Law Enforcement Museum will be open each day May 11 – 15, 10am to 6pm.

This is your opportunity to experience unique exhibits, our driving and decision-making simulators, and walk through time and discover the Museum’s collection of thousands of artifacts gathered throughout law enforcement history.


Special Honor Guard Registration for National Police Week

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund offers several opportunities for law enforcement honor guards to participate in National Police Week. Honor Guard Cordons, Stand Watch for the Fallen, and a special reception just for Honor Guard members are among the opportunities to register for now!


Shop 2022 National Police Week!

In the coming months, plan to enrich your Police Week experience by visiting our online store to purchase our 2022 National Police Week merchandise. We’re offering t-shirts, professional attire, and priceless collectibles. All proceeds go to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and help to facilitate future events for Law Enforcement and their loved ones.


 

Police Week Sponsors

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund would like to thank our presenting sponsor, Verizon, and all of our sponsors who have been instrumental in making National Police Week possible.

Stay tuned for more information about 2022 National Police Week over the coming weeks!

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Does Failure to Warn Before Shooting Equal Liability?

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rules on officers’ failure to warn before shooting a suspect pointing a gun at them.

 

By Ken Wallentine | Police1.com

Editor’s Note: This article was featured in Lexipol’s Xiphos newsletter, a monthly legal-focused law enforcement newsletter authored by Ken Wallentine. Subscriptions are free for public safety officers, educators and public attorneys. Subscribe here!

 

POWELL V. SNOOK, 2022 WL 363887 (11th Cir. 2022)

Just before midnight, a 911 caller reported hearing a woman’s screams and three gunshots. The caller said the noises were coming from “a few houses down” from 736 Swan Lake Road. She also claimed to have previously called 911 “because they were fighting so bad.” The 911 operator searched the 911 call history for 736 Swan Lake but found no record of an earlier call. The caller said the noise came from “the second or third house past hers towards Fairview Road.”

Though the caller gave some additional clarifying information, the dispatcher sent officers to 736 Swan Lake, explaining that, if the officers were “looking at this location, it’s two houses down on the right, maybe three houses.” Officers Snook, Davis and Ramsey responded. While en route, Officer Snook asked dispatch to find a more precise address for the location of the disturbance. The first dispatcher had ended her shift at midnight; the replacement dispatcher replied that dispatch thought it was “either 690 or 634.” The officers asked the dispatcher to call the complainant back and get more information about the location of occurrence. The dispatcher did so, again guiding the officers to 690 Swan Lake.

The officers arrived at 690 Swan Lake and saw it was set far back from the street and had a long driveway. Officer Snook took his rifle in hand, believing the officers were responding to a domestic violence call with shots fired. The officers asked for a call history and registration check for cars parked at the house. They learned Sharon and David Powell lived there and that prior calls involved an alarm and an ambulance call. Officer Snook knew that alarm or ambulance calls sometimes grew out of domestic violence incidents, though he also learned officers had not been sent to any previous domestic violence incidents at the Powell home.

The officers crept toward the house and Officer Snook shone his flashlight into a window. Mrs. Powell heard her dogs barking and awakened her husband. Mr. Powell went to the laundry room door, looked out the window and told his wife he saw someone outside. He put on his pants and grabbed a handgun. He walked into an attached garage, his wife following, and opened the garage door, causing the garage light to come on. All the other house lights were still off.

Mr. Powell looked around and raised his pistol hand toward Officer Snook, shielded in the darkness. Believing he was about to be shot, Officer Snook fired three shots from his rifle, hitting Mr. Powell, who died the following day. Mrs. Powell testified the officers never identified themselves as police officers and never spoke any warnings prior to shooting. She sued the officers, claiming excessive force. The trial court granted summary judgment to Officer Snook, ruling he was entitled to qualified immunity.

In 1985, the United States Supreme Court said that an officer should give a warning where feasible before using deadly force (Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985)). In this case, Mrs. Powell argued a warning was constitutionally required prior to shooting. In other words, does it amount to excessive force for an officer to shoot someone who was pointing a gun at him, without warning the person first?

The court of appeals cited existing court ruling that the “law does not require officers in a tense and dangerous situation to wait until the moment a suspect uses a deadly weapon to act to stop the suspect.” The court’s prior decisions hold that an officer may use deadly force when he “has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others or that he has committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm; reasonably believes that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent escape; and has given some warning about the possible use of deadly force, if feasible.” An officer is “not required to wait and hope for the best.”

The court noted Officer Snook refrained from giving a warning “to wait and see what Mr. Powell did with the pistol before Officer Snook drew attention to himself and potentially escalated the situation by shouting a warning.” The court also observed that “in hindsight, that decision may have been a mistake.” Nonetheless, the Supreme Court rejected hindsight analysis in Graham v. Connor (490 U.S. 386 (1989)), holding “the reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”

The court carefully considered the circumstances as reasonably believed by Officer Snook and the other two officers. Acknowledging this case involves tragic circumstances, the court held an officer facing the same circumstances as Officer Snook “during the rapidly unfolding events on that dark night reasonably could have believed that the man raising a pistol in his direction was about to shoot him.” As such, he could lawfully “respond with deadly force to protect himself.” The court decidedly explained, “The shooting was tragic, as such shootings always are, but tragedy does not equate with unreasonableness” under clearly established law.

 

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The “Lyin’ Tamer”: Interpreting Deceptive Body Language

Season 3 Episode 2 | The “Lyin’ Tamer”: Interpreting Deceptive Body Language feat. Janine Driver

Janine Driver is a New York Times best-selling author and award-winning keynote speaker who spent 16 years as a Special Agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Driver has trained over 60,000 lawyers, judges, and law enforcement officers on how to detect deception. Known professionally as the “Lyin’ Tamer,” she now shares her people-reading skills to help corporate and law enforcement professionals better understand others’ hidden emotions unintentionally expressed through body language.

 

WHAT’S NEW IN BLUE

Inspired by the approach used for TED Talks, What’s New in Blue is a series of short videos intended to keep viewers informed about innovative developments and critical issues in law enforcement. The episodes feature informative discussions about ideas worth spreading throughout American policing in a format useful for viewing in roll call, training classes, or sharing with colleagues and across social media.

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Career-Ending Injuries? Ladies and Gentlemen, Lend Me Your Ears

By D.C. Pauley | Calibre Press

Even in retirement, many of my friends are active or former First Responders.  The number of them that can relate to this story (even partially) is disconcerting. Please read on.

Brief background:

After about ten years’ service in a suburban Chicago area Police Department, I was yearning for a change of pace and ready to embark on something new. I moved from the Midwest to Colorado and completed the certification process to get Colorado POST certified and hired as a “lateral”.

I took a Law Enforcement position in Southwest Colorado, at a Colorado town known for excellent skiing and music festivals. Attractions were a 4-day workweek, numerous nearby National Parks and circles of friends with the “outdoors” lifestyle. My new hobbies included backpacking, mountaineering, canyoneering, caving, and ice-climbing.  It was great; every weekend I could choose to embark on outdoor adventures that I could never afford to do from the Midwest.  It was also conducive to maintaining a high degree of physical fitness, an important personal goal of mine.

I had built a healthy LE resume, starting two years into my Law Enforcement career, as a firearms Instructor, rangemaster and tactical trainer. Additionally, I was an adjunct instructor at some of the best firearms schools in the nation. Suffice to say that I was fortunate enough to do more firearms training and shooting each year than most officers do in their entire careers.  A lot more. This volume of training and shooting mandated purchasing the very best hearing protection and often, doubling up with earplugs under electronic muffs.  I have heard and given all the range “protect yourself, your-eyes and ears” safety briefings. I was adequately protecting myself. Or so I thought.

I continued my role as firearms trainer/instructor with my new department as well as with my other venues. As hearing protection technology got even better over the years and I constantly upgraded my muffs with better models, sparing no expense.  Five-day shooting schools? Running qualification shoots? Flashbang training? No problem, I was doubled up with the best protective equipment.

After eight years of working loud, outdoor music festivals and doing numerous deafening bar-nightclub checks every night I worked, the gradual hearing loss still seemed to rebound within a few days. Mostly. The initial hearing loss was gradual. It was difficult to objectively measure. I had made Sergeant and was pretty much preoccupied with helping manage the Department.

And so it began…

In 2005 (in my mid-40s), I purchased a conventional over-the-ear hearing aid for my left ear and noticed that it did help when talking to people. This technology even had a “blocking” feature for sounds over a certain decibel level.  This device was, essentially, another layer of noise protection. Except for having batteries, it was not much more trouble than wearing eyeglasses.

When working, I placed my corded radio police pac-set mic up on my shoulder area near the hearing aid. This way, police radio traffic was not hard for me to hear. My right ear was “free” to hear conversation and close proximal personal interaction.

The “Threshold” event

At one of the last concerts of 2018, (the town had obtained updated, even louder sound towers in 2016) I was working close to the sound towers for 10-15 minutes, helping sort out the usual problems that occur backstage. I have never experienced sound waves so unbelievably loud. Every sound pulse resonated through my body like a blast wave. At the conclusion of the concert, I experienced some vertigo and nausea walking out of the venue. The battery in my hearing aid was dead from trying to block the noise; I never heard the “low battery” chime. Both ears were in fact, unprotected.

After a few weeks, I could tell that my hearing was not rebounding back. The tinnitus (ear ringing) was loud enough to almost block out normal conversation. I was also experiencing hyperacusis (a painful super-sensitivity to certain sounds).

At the Audiologist’s

After a battery of various audio tests, it was determined that my hearing was so irreparably damaged that I was a candidate for a hearing device called a “BAHA” that is a “Bone-Anchored Hearing Apparatus”. This is a skull-mounted resonance device about the size of a large button, that processes sound, using the natural resonance of porous bone, thus bypassing the damaged inner ear and rerouting sound signals to the brain. I am told this gadget is installed on babies born without hearing. It seats on a 5mm titanium abutment that is placed in a hole drilled into the skull. It has a friction-fit, like a snap, so it is removable. I have the BAHA on my left side, and a very powerful conventional hearing aid on my right side. See the picture; it is the grayish thing behind my left ear.

Getting one’s hearing corrected is absolutely unlike getting eyeglasses. Hearing enhancements almost never restore one’s hearing back to “normal”. The minimal gains for most permit some level of daily audio-functioning. As for the shrieking tinnitus and hyperacusis, the advice is just “Learn to live with it”. Ultimately, even with high-tech corrective hearing devices, it was determined I could not reliably perform my Law Enforcement duties up to par. Personal communication challenges aside, the devices are fragile and have many serious limitations.  Thus ended a career of over three decades.

Now hear this….

I am still able to do many of the things that I love doing, especially the previously mentioned outdoor activities. I can still attend and conduct classroom, dojo and range training / firearms shoots.

That said, I want to articulate my motive behind selecting and sharing this topic. Post-retirement, I still maintain friendships and have a foot in Law Enforcement-First Responder circles. The topic of damaged hearing comes up, and much too frequently my colleagues say that they too have hearing damage and some level of hearing loss. Protect yourselves, completely. Indeed, there are many damaging, insidious, gradual ways to get hearing loss, beyond the obvious firearms trainings. As First Responders / LEOs we are exposed to them daily.

Takeaways / The things I have learned:

– Firearms training is NOT the only job hazard that can inflict hearing damage and loss.

– Some people are genetically pre-disposed to damage from soundwaves (!) I confirmed this as fact with my audiologist.

– Once hearing is “lost”, it is unlikely to be restored. Hearing apparatuses can help a bit in some cases.

– Hearing damage and loss is degenerative. More exposure to the hazards damages the hearing more until there is little left. A little hearing loss today can be functionally deaf months from now.

– If you suspect you may have hearing damage/loss, get tested ASAP to see how far down the “damage path” you are. The hearing aid technology does offer a little protection.

– My hearing loss process was gradual…until one night it wasn’t.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I am glad and grateful that my career-ending injuries are not worse. But I’m appealing to other First-Responder brothers and sisters to step back and perhaps evaluate their exposure and personal experience with job related hearing damage. A measure of care, awareness and applied technology can go a long way in curbing hearing loss that you’ll never regain.

Thank You All. Stay safe out there.

Comments? Insights. E-mail us at: editor@calibrepress.com

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A Letter to The American Public: Breaking Down Policing Myths

Story By John M. Williams, Sr., MD, MPH for Police1.com

Our society cannot expect any reasonable person to put their life on the line without significant guarantees in terms of their compensation, benefits, personal liability and physical well-being


“Police business,” he said almost gently, “is a hell of a problem. It’s a good deal like politics. It asks for the highest type of men, and there’s nothing in it to attract the highest type of men. So, we have to work with what we get – and we get things like this.” 

Raymond Chandler wrote this in the Philip Marlowe detective novel “The Lady in the Lake” published in 1943. This perception has continued throughout the years, with crooked cops depicted in the films “Brooklyn’s Finest,” “Bad Lieutenant” and “Training Day.

With the events of the past couple of years, images of cops as “heroes in blue” have vanished, and hard looks and indifference have replaced the spontaneous handshakes and “thanks for your service!” declarations of the past. But what is reality, and what is a false stereotype?

A cop is equal parts warrior, paralegal, medic, behavioral health specialist, detective and social worker.
A cop is equal parts warrior, paralegal, medic, behavioral health specialist, detective and social worker. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

I would like to dispel 10 commonly held myths and provide some perspectives you can share when you talk about these issues with your friends, family, neighbors, elected representatives and anyone else who will listen. These are facts not always covered by the media but are critical for an understanding of today’s policing landscape.

1. ANY HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE CAN BE A COP.

Actually, many agencies require college credits or military serviceThe selection process is daunting – a written exam, physical exam, physical ability testing, psychological screening, drug testing, polygraph, oral board and a probing background check, which many candidates will fail.

Recruits face up to 6 months (or more) of training in the academy in criminal law, arrest control, de-escalation techniques, firearms, driving, first aid, mental health and other subjects. A cop is equal parts warrior, paralegal, medic, behavioral health specialist, detective and social worker, so their training must reflect this. Assuming you graduate (not all do), you ride for several weeks with a Field Training Officer (FTO) before becoming qualified to patrol solo, and there is a probationary period from 6 months to 2 years before you become a permanent employee. Slip up, and you may be looking for a different line of work.

After completing FTO training and probation, there are many hours of mandatory annual training. Cops are perpetual students, and their training is never complete. It is tough to get to be a cop and even harder to stay one.

2. COPS HAVE WORKPLACE SAFETY PROTECTIONS JUST LIKE THE REST OF US.

As the police watch out for us, who is looking out for them? As public sector workers, they are not covered by Federal OSHA standards in 24 states (including my home state of Colorado) and Washington, DCIn the remaining 26 statesinspections are infrequent, and there are few specific health and safety standards that apply to law enforcement workConstructionrefinery and factory workers have more protections under OSHA than any cop does.

Federally-regulated jobs such as long-haul truckingrailroadcommercial aviation and maritime have well-defined work hours by law, but surprisingly, there are no similar work hour limitations for law enforcement. The risk to the public of an armed, fatigued police officer driving a patrol car at high speed while making complex life or death decisions cannot be ignored. Considering that police work is one of the most dangerous occupations in terms of fatal and non-fatal injuries, we need to be doing more to protect our cops…a lot more!

3. WE JUST NEED TO OFFER MORE MONEY AND BONUSES, THEN WE CAN GET MORE PEOPLE TO WORK IN LAW ENFORCEMENT.

There are law enforcement staffing crises in many major cities including SeattleMinneapolisBaltimoreAtlanta and Chicago, and the time from initial recruitment to having a fully-qualified officer on patrol can be 1-2 years (after required college hours). Considering the current shortfalls, that is much too long to wait for the cops that we desperately need right now.

Call out the National Guard? Well, they have neither the skill set, nor the authority and sustainability to fill these gaps, and do we want community policing or martial law?

Those who have left police work have significant experience that departments sorely need, so plans to recruit more officers must also include them. What will it take to bring them back into the fold and entice others to enter? Significantly better pay, benefits and working conditions as a start – with more appreciation and less derision. There are many other less dangerous and better-paying occupations out there, and with anti-police sentiment rampant, and a record number of officers shot and killed in 2021, we have to ask ourselves “why would anyone want to be a cop these days?”

4. WITH ALL OF THE INFRASTRUCTURE AND RECOVERY MONEY BEING HANDED OUT BY CONGRESS, THAT SHOULD HELP LAW ENFORCEMENT, RIGHT?

Neither the recently passed $1.2T “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” (H.R.3684) nor the $1.75T “Build Back Better Act” (H.R.5376)  (still under consideration), have language about improved pay, benefits, training, or working conditions for law enforcement, which is at least as important as bike lanes, stormwater management and invasive plant elimination, which have all been identified as areas for funding.

Body-worn cameras, data storage systems, less-than-lethal weapon systems and the enhanced training that goes along with these things all cost money, and many agencies cannot afford them, including those in Colorado and other states.

5. THE POLICE SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS AND SHOULD BE ABLE TO BE SUED.

“Qualified immunity refers to a series of legal precedents that protect government officials — including police officers — accused of violating constitutional rights. To win a civil suit against a police officer, complainants must show that the officer violated ‘clearly established law,’ most often by pointing to factually similar previous cases. Otherwise, officers are protected from liability.”

Colorado and New York City have already eliminated qualified immunity, and the failed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 (H.R.1280) would have eliminated it completely.

President Biden has indicated that he will act unilaterally through executive action on police reform, so qualified immunity will be back on the table again. Cops must be appropriately shielded from civil liability, without the fear of unfounded and frivolous lawsuits, if they are expected to respond to the dangerous situations they encounter daily. Protection of individual qualified immunity must be made federal law, not just judicial doctrine open to interpretation by cities and states.

6. POLICE WORK IS GLAMOROUS AND EXCITING LIKE “BLUE BLOODS” “HAWAII FIVE-0” “BOSCH” AND “LAW AND ORDER: SVU” THERE WILL ALWAYS BE PEOPLE WANTING TO DO IT.

As we reel from record numbers of law enforcement line of duty deaths from COVID-19vehicle accidents and gunfire, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that fatal and nonfatal work injuries to police officers occur at about 4 times the national average for all workers. Police encounters with suspects and emotionally disturbed persons can be “tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving,” with officers, suspects and bystanders being injured or killed, as in the tragic Burlington Coat Factory shooting.

Make a mistake, and you could face a civil lawsuit or criminal charges, and you could lose your job, house, family and freedom. It is no surprise that cops are retiring and quitting in droves, while departments scramble to replace them. All this for a job that pays about $34.00/hour with a pension, if you are lucky enough to collect it because police officers have a significantly shorter lifespan than the general population.

Considering all of this, do we really expect that people will rush to make this a career choice in current times?

7. SOCIAL WORKERS, COMMUNITY SERVICE OFFICERS, MENTAL HEALTH SPECIALISTS AND UNARMED TRAFFIC AGENTS CAN REPLACE POLICE OFFICERS.

Just like in the medical field, where we have nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists and physical therapists, each team member has a role, but ultimately the physician leads the team, writes the orders and takes responsibility for the outcomes. Ancillary staff, as mentioned above, have their role as part of the law enforcement team, but they do not have the training or tools to deal with the unpredictable nature of citizen contacts and traffic stops that can turn from friendly to deadly in mere seconds. The skill sets they bring are highly valued, but they will never be able to replace sworn officers.

8. POLICE UNIONS ARE POWERFUL AND ALWAYS GET THEIR WAY.

What role do unions play? They represent officers when contracts are bargained but have no recourse when negotiations stall, as it is illegal for cops to strike, and calling out with the “blue flu” can get you fired. Chicago Police went for 4 years without a contract while officers worked mandatory overtime and frequently had days off canceled, and NYPD rank-and-file police officers went for 7 years without a contract. This just doesn’t happen in the private sector.

Unless unions, benevolent associations and the like get more power at the bargaining table, there won’t be anyone left to come to the table.

9. MINOR TRAFFIC OFFENSES SHOULD BE IGNORED, AND THE POLICE SHOULD BE FIGHTING REAL CRIME.

new law in Virginia bans police from pulling over drivers solely for some car safety violations, and certain types of traffic stops have also been banned in PhiladelphiaPittsburgh and Seattle. Don’t forget that Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City Bomber, was stopped by Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Charlie Hanger for a missing license plate, and Ted Bundy as well as several other serial killers were caught as a result of traffic stops for minor offenses. Any street cop can tell you about all the felons, drugs, weapons and impaired drivers they got off the street due to probable cause and reasonable suspicion traffic stops.

This trend, coupled with blanket “no-pursuit policies” has emboldened criminals who see no consequences in running from the police.

10. WHEN I DIAL 911, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE SOMEONE SENT OUT TO HELP ME – THAT’S WHAT I PAY TAXES FOR.

Not necessarily. As police staffing dwindles and crime rates go up, something has to give. Police in Austin, Texas no longer respond to “non-emergencies” including verbal disturbances, theft and prostitution, which are no longer an active threat to people or property. We know how “verbal disturbances” can escalate into full-blown domestic violence calls, and who’s to say that a “prostitution” call is not a case of human trafficking? Similar things have happened in Asheville, North CarolinaTucson, Arizona and Portland, Oregon. Unless something is done to stem the tide of those leaving law enforcement, I would predict more agencies will have to do the same thing and limit the crimes they are able to respond to.

Despite all of these challenges, some of the finest men and women in America are still suiting up every day with honor and compassion to patrol our streets and take care of business in our jails and correctional facilities, 24/7, but for how much longer? It has always been inspiring to me to see them at work, on the range and in the academy, but it is hard to watch the changes that their chosen occupation is going through right now.

Again, from Raymond Chandler: “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, and who is neither tarnished nor afraid.” If that is the type of cop we want, we must support our brothers and sisters in law enforcement and demand the immediate changes necessary to help them, through appropriate state and federal legislative actions.

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Three Considerations When Taking Officer Use of Force Statements

Story By Mike Ranalli and Paul Taylor for Police1.com

Most use of force incidents prompt a departmental investigation that usually includes taking the officer’s statement of the incident. This process of collecting a use of force statement may seem straightforward, but there is much to be considered before taking the statement.

A statement is intended to allow the officer to tell their story – to create a clear picture of what was important to them in that moment. Yet often, investigators ask questions that can lead to unnecessary information or even contradictions in the officer’s statement.

Agencies should adopt flexible policies that can adapt to the situation and the officer’s response.
Agencies should adopt flexible policies that can adapt to the situation and the officer’s response. (Photo/Pixabay)

Before sitting down with an officer, investigators must understand what information is important to obtain from the officer to advance the investigation. The following are three factors to consider.

1. DO YOU NEED TO TAKE A STATEMENT?

To find the historical truth of what happened, do you even need to take a statement? Let the investigation drive this decision; don’t take a statement just to check a box.

Consider what you need to further or complete the investigation. Do you have witnesses or video available? In some cases, this may be enough, as long as you are not shortcutting the investigation process. The officer’s account may actually create discrepancies due to perception and memory. Will that provide clarity for the investigation?

Also consider Garrity rights, if applicable in your state. The Garrity “warning” often compels the officer to give a statement. Once given, the statement cannot be used in a criminal case. Garrity issues require you to have an idea of the direction the investigation is heading. You need to be flexible with the investigative process to fit the situation at hand.

2. WHEN SHOULD THE STATEMENT TAKE PLACE?

Agencies asking this question are typically looking for a straightforward policy answer, but there is no clear-cut answer that will apply to all situations.

The issue? It’s a trade-off.

The goal of taking a statement is memory reconstruction and communication. There is no doubt memory starts to fade immediately, so you might argue for taking a statement as quickly as possible. On the flip side, if the officer is emotionally charged and fatigued immediately following the incident, they may be unable to go through the effortful process of reconstructing and articulating the memory for you. In this case, allowing a sleep cycle (or several) will better serve the investigation and pursuit of the truth.

Law enforcement administrators should avoid putting a mandatory waiting period in place. Rather than trying to find a policy applicable to all situations, agencies should adopt flexible policies that can adapt to the situation and the officer’s response. There is benefit in moving the interview process closer to the event, but it’s more important to choose a time that facilitates a productive interview.

3. ARE YOU PREPARED TO ALLOW THE OFFICER TO GIVE THEIR ACCOUNT?

The key to the interview process is to understand an officer’s state of mind and decision-making process during the event. To do so successfully, we have to get out of our own way!

Most of us in law enforcement have an interview approach of trying to get at the facts that support probable cause, support an arrest or support us taking action in some way. On domestic violence calls or when interviewing criminal suspect, for example, we know the information we need to collect; we ask questions designed to obtain that information.

In cases of use of force, it doesn’t matter how much information you have on the case. You don’t know the officer’s state of mind and decision-making process used to get there so you must allow the officer to tell the story. There are several keys strategies that can help:

  • Establish rapport with the officer. After the typical greeting and pleasantries, it’s critical to turn control of the interview over to the officer. Let them know they are the only one who can tell us the information we need and advise them the interview will require concentration and effort to give us this information.
  • Allow the officer to tell their story. Once they begin to tell their story, it’s important to get this narrative in an unbroken sequence, allowing them to talk freely. This allows the officer to tell you what was important to them in the moment which is critical when understanding the decision-making process and why the event occurred as it did. When the investigator interrupts or tries to direct the interview in an attempt to uncover the information they believe is critical to the case, it results in a superficial memory retrieval process from the officer.
  • Ask questions that will facilitate their memory. Once the officer has told the story in as much detail as possible and focused on the areas important to them, the investigator may begin to ask questions. Be careful not to probe with only the questions you find crucial to the investigation. Probing should increase the officer’s ability or further facilitate their memory, starting with the areas that were richest in their account – not the areas that had inconsistencies or gaps in memory. The gray areas are not likely to yield much, if any, information. Many times, putting pressure on these areas results in the officer guessing or beginning to construct, rather than retrieve, memories to give us the information we think is important. Focus on where the memories are strongest – the officer’s focus of attention, what they were paying attention to, or perceiving at the time of the event. It is likely these areas had the highest emotional content for the officer, so exploring these areas first is most beneficial.

To learn two additional considerations for use of force statements, view our on-demand webinar: Officer Use of Force Statements: Considerations for Investigative Priorities.


About the authors

Mike Ranalli, Esq., is a program manager II for Lexipol. He retired in 2016 after 10 years as chief of the Glenville (N.Y.) Police Department. He began his career in 1984 with the Colonie (N.Y.) Police Department and held the ranks of patrol officer, sergeant, detective sergeant and lieutenant. Mike is also an attorney and is a frequent presenter on various legal issues including search and seizure, use of force, legal aspects of interrogations and confessions, wrongful convictions, and civil liability. He is a consultant and instructor on police legal issues to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, and has taught officers around New York State for the last 11 years in that capacity. Mike is also a past president of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, a member of the IACP Professional Standards, Image & Ethics Committee, and the former Chairman of the New York State Police Law Enforcement Accreditation Council. He is a graduate of the 2009 F.B.I.-Mid-Atlantic Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar and is a Certified Force Science Analyst.

Paul Taylor is an assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver where he studies decision making and human error in the context of use of force encounters. He is also a senior instructor and course coordinator for the Force Science Institute. Paul has over 10 years of practical law enforcement experience including time as a department training manager, patrol sergeant and use-of-force instructor. He is a Colorado POST-certified train-the-trainer and a subject matter expert on the Colorado POST Curriculum Committee. Paul has delivered law enforcement instruction for academy, field training, and advanced in-service audiences as well as graduate and undergraduate level courses in both classroom and online formats. He is actively engaged in law enforcement research and training across the United States and regularly presents at both academic and practitioner conferences.

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FBI Launches Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection

The Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection (LESDC) Act aims to help agencies better understand and prevent suicides among current and former law enforcement officers, corrections employees, 911 operators, judges, and prosecutors.

On January 1, 2022, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launched the LESDC to provide a mechanism for law enforcement agencies to report suicides and attempted suicides of law enforcement personnel, as defined within the LESDC Act, for the purpose of compiling national statistics on these tragedies. Authorized law enforcement agencies are now able to submit suicide information for their officers for incidents occurring on January 1, 2022, and forward.

View the FBI press release and access the following resources to learn more:

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Law Enforcement Support

Article by the

 

Missouri’s U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt said one of the biggest challenges confronting law enforcement today is staffing shortages caused by record-high departures and the difficulty recruiting new officers.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Blunt, a Republican and co-chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, said the root cause of this problem was predictable.

“These staff shortages are unfortunate,” Blunt said. “But they’re in so many ways predictable of a movement that villainizes law enforcement for, I think, political gain in many cases. Officers have been demoralized by the ‘defund the police’ crusade. They’ve been discouraged by prosecutors who put dangerous criminals back on the street or even put out a list of crimes that people will not be prosecuted for.”

Nationwide, interest in becoming a police officer is down significantly. It’s been that way for several years. But it is acute right now especially in places like St. Louis City and County. Hiring anyone in this economy is a challenge but it is particularly difficult for law enforcement agencies.

Blunt mentioned the Eastern Missouri Police Academy had about half as many recruits join in 2021 than they had in 2020. He said officer departures in St. Louis City and County spiked in 2021 and were at pace to be up 60 percent in each of those departments compared to an average year.

“In my hometown of Springfield, Missouri, they have 40 vacancies right now they’re trying to fill on the department,” said Blunt. “In January, the Columbia, Missouri Police Department had around 20 vacancies in a force that, at its maximum size, would be 187 or so people.”

 
Pelton said the additional revenue generated by Prop P, a half-cent sales tax Franklin county voters passed overwhelmingly in 2018, helped stabilize his department. A large chunk of the proceeds were directed to increasing officer salaries. He said he isn’t experiencing the kind of attrition other departments are throughout Missouri.
 
Still, Pelton acknowledged the trends aren’t good. “People are just not getting into law enforcement like they used to. But we are really fortunate for the support we receive here. It has made a difference.” he said.
 
That community support is absolutely critical to the health and well-being of any law enforcement agency.
 
“When I talk to police chiefs, I hear concerns that a lot of good candidates are deciding maybe law enforcement won’t be the career they want to have,” Blunt said in his remarks. “When I talk to the sworn officers that I see here every day and I see at home, I hear many of them feel they just simply have a job where they face danger but they don’t get enough support that they need to do the job they need to do.”
 
Support for law enforcement. In many ways, community support is the key ingredient to a healthy law enforcement.
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Managing Substance Withdrawal in Jails: A Legal Brief

Brief from the Bureau of Justice Assistance | Unsplash Photo by Syarafina Yusof

 

A disproportionate number of people in jails have substance use disorders (SUDs).1

Incarceration provides a valuable opportunity for identifying SUD and addressing withdrawal.*

Within the first few hours and days of detainment, individuals who have suddenly stopped using alcohol, opioids, or other drugs may experience withdrawal symptoms, particularly when they have used the substances heavily or long-term. Without its identification and timely subsequent medical attention, withdrawal can lead to serious injury or death.

Deaths from withdrawal are preventable, and jail administrators have a pressing responsibility to establish and implement withdrawal policy and protocols that will save lives and ensure legal compliance. This brief describes the scope of the challenge, provides an overview of constitutional rights and key legislation related to substance use withdrawal, and outlines steps for creating a comprehensive response to SUD.

Scope of the Challenge

Among sentenced individuals in jail, 63 percent have an SUD, compared to 5 percent of adults who are not incarcerated.3

From 2000 to 2019, the number of local jail inmates who died from all causes increased 33 percent; the number who died from drug/alcohol intoxication during the same period increased 397 percent.4

Among women incarcerated in local jails, the average annual mortality rate due to drug/alcohol intoxication was nearly twice that of their male counterparts.5

The median length of stay in jail before death from alcohol or drug intoxication was just 1 day,6 indicating that individuals on short stays, including those who are detained in pretrial status, are equally at risk.

It is not uncommon for individuals to experience substance withdrawal at the time of entry into jail, when access to their drug of choice is abruptly stopped.

Estimates within specific regions vary widely, from 17 percent of people entering New York City jails being in acute opioid withdrawal7 to a record 81 percent of people entering a Pennsylvania county jail needing detoxification services—half of them for opioid use disorders.8

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Everything You Need To Know About Distracted Driving

Would you drive a distance equivalent to an entire length of an American football field at 55 mph (89 km/h) blindfolded?

Even though many people will answer the question above with an empathic no, the reality is that most of us do exactly that when we text while driving. Consequently, in the United States, approximately eight people die every day in car crashes involving distracted driving.

Indeed, phones have an essential and valuable function in cars, from providing maps, driving directions, podcasts, music, and emergency calls, but they can also be a menace that could potentially lead to chaos on the roads.

To create consciousness around the dangers of distracted driving, this article focuses on the consequences of distracted driving and how simple solutions can alleviate the situation. It emphasizes the reality that distracted driving does not only involve using the mobile phone while driving but also other factors like eating, engaging passengers, or changing the dials on the car radio. 

 

What Counts as Distracted Driving?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as “any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system — anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.”

The NHTSA is an agency of the US federal government under the Department of Transportation. It defines its mandate: “Through enforcing vehicle performance standards and partnerships with state and local governments, NHTSA reduces deaths, injuries and economic losses from motor vehicle crashes.” 

From the NHTSA definition above, it’s clear that while cell phones are a major contributor to distracted driving, they are not the only culprits.

 

Types of Distractions

distracted driving looking down

The website that provides tools and resources for financial planning, Bankrate.com, identifies four types of distracted driving, all of which can lead to potentially fatal consequences:

Cognitive distractions:Happen when your mind drifts away from the activity of driving. Such interruptions can include daydreaming or being too upset to concentrate on the task of driving.

Visual distractions:Take your eyes off the road and make you momentarily sidetracked and stop looking ahead on the road. Sometimes people get involved in accidents while watching scenes of other accidents on the road.

Auditory distractions:Include voices or sounds that attract your concentration and shift your attention from safe driving. They also include holding conversations in the car or even listening to music.

Manual distractions:Involve taking your hands or one of your hands off the wheel to perform a non-driving activity such as taking a sip from a drink, eating, or using an electronic device.

Do all types of distractions bear the same amount of risk?

Experts indicate that while all types of distractions significantly increase the risk of a car crash, some increase the risk more than others. For instance, a distraction such as texting, which requires a combination of cognitive, visual, and manual resources, would make a car crash 23 times more likely to happen.

 

Distracted Driving by the Numbers 

The NHTSA reports that distracted driving claimed 3,142 lives in 2019. Here are some distracted driving statistics showing how bad the problem is:

Cellphone Use

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reports that out of the 220 million Americans that subscribe to wireless services, an estimated “80% of those subscribers use their phones while driving.”

Texting while driving is particularly fatal, at least as far as statistics are concerned. Suppose the estimates from the NCSL are accurate. In that case, it doesn’t come as a surprise that approximately 400 fatal car accidents every year are directly attributed to simultaneous texting and driving.

Teenage Drivers and Number of Passengers

Two key risk factors drive the number of fatal accidents caused by distracted driving: age and number of passengers.  

In a research note published in April 2020, the NHTSA indicates that “Eight percent of drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted.” It adds, “This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the fatal crashes.”  

The second risk factor is the number of passengers. The chances of a teenage driver getting killed in a car crash increase with every additional passenger in the car, up to 44% with one passenger, doubling when there are two passengers, and quadrupling when there are three or more passengers.

Therefore, it can be suggested that reducing the number of passengers in a car driven by a teenager could significantly reduce the number of fatal crashes.

Distracted Driving Deaths

Even though we focus on drivers and their passengers, distracted driving kills many non-occupants, including cyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians. For instance, the NHTSA reports that in 2019, distracted drivers were involved in the deaths of 566 non-occupants.

Statistics show that males are involved in more fatal accidents related to distracted driving than females. The NHTSA notes that “Sixty-nine percent of the distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes were males as compared to 73 percent of drivers in all fatal crashes in 2019.”

 

Behaviors Related to Distracted Driving

 girl taking driving test

Driving demands a significant portion of our mental resources. Research indicates that it places a huge demand on our cognitive abilities, such as our vision and motor skills and our visual-spatial orientation and integration functions.

In driving, mental resources are required to monitor other cars on the same road, process signs and traffic rules, and make quick cognitive decisions.

While cellphone use is possibly the most common distracting behavior, a few more common behaviors also comprise distracted driving: eating, drinking, and smoking.

Other behaviors include intricate conversations with passengers, grabbing items from the back seat, applying makeup, focusing too much on the rearview mirror, fiddling around with GPS or navigation systems, and using electronic devices in the car.

Distractions and related behaviors also use the same mental resources needed for safe driving. An activity such as texting or turning to have a quick conversation with a passenger significantly limits the required alertness for safe driving, even if it takes mere seconds.

 

The Consequences of Distracted Driving

car accident on a highway

Death is, of course, the most extreme consequence of distracted driving. Families are left to rue the loss of their loved ones, their breadwinners, and other important individuals in their communities. Others have their lives permanently altered or have to remain in special care for the rest of their lives.

Kira Hudson, a victim of crashes caused by distracted driving, tells a story that puts a human face to distracted driving. She talks about how she was left to endure pain, deep regret, and even anger after two accidents involving distracted driving.

Hudson says she was arguing with her boyfriend on the phone while driving. A series of incidents lead to her crashing the car while still holding her phone. She is quoted saying, “It doesn’t look like it, but I was very fortunate in my crash.” She adds, “I’m still here today. I didn’t hurt anyone else. If I would have hurt someone, I don’t think I would have had the same outlook as I do now.”

You can watch Hudson tell her story in the video below.

How to Be Hands-Free While Driving

The best solution to avoid distracted driving is to focus solely on the task of driving. Of course, this is easier said than done, but if you listen to stories such as the one told by Hudson above, you will know that being disciplined enough to concentrate on the task of safe driving could save lives.

man sitting in a car with infotainment systems

To deal with the challenge of distracted driving, many automobile manufacturers now integrate Bluetooth technology into the car’s infotainment systems. After an initial setup, these systems automatically connect with your cellphone as soon as you enter the car, allowing you to control the phone’s functions without holding the phone in your hand while driving.

A few other aftermarket products are available that significantly reduce the amount of distraction. One good option is to get a cup holder phone mount.

Other products like the car air vent phone holder provide the best angle because you can adjust the phone mount part 360 degrees. This means that you don’t have to adjust your driving position at any time while you’re using the phone for tasks like navigation.

Here are some more tips on using your cellphone while driving:

  • Before you begin driving, set up everything you need, like navigation, GPS, and your entertainment system.
  • If you are not alone, always designate someone to text or make and receive calls on your behalf.
  • Avoid text messaging at all costs, even if it means placing your phone in the trunk of your car before you start driving.
  • When it’s safe to do so, pull over for serious or important calls that demand your total concentration.

 

Be Always Alert to Arrive Alive

Remember, no phone call or message is more important than your life or the lives of passengers and other road users. If that phone call has to be made, find a safe place to stop your vehicle and make the call or send the message without unnecessarily exposing yourself and others to danger.

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