Why is the field officer probably best qualified to handle the initial phases of a criminal investigation?   no comments

Posted at 11:51 pm in Criminal Justice,Law Enforcement,Quora

Answer by Tim Dees:

Unless the law enforcement agency is flush with experienced, specialized investigators to respond to every allegation of crimes relevant to their specialty–and none I know of are–someone has to be the first responder who will assess the situation. For example, if someone reports a bad odor coming from a house, it could be caused by multiple decomposing murder victims inside, or it could mean that their sewage line has backed up. If not for the patrol officer making the initial assessment, homicide detectives would be rolling on incidents better served by a good plumber.

Well-trained patrol officers know what to do, and just as importantly, what not to do at a possible crime scene. One of those duties, and sometimes the most difficult job, is to keep spectators out of the crime scene.

When it gets out that there’s a homicide or other major crime scene, cops and news reporters flock to the location. Some people need to be there and have to be admitted, and others should be turned away. When the person who wants in is an academy classmate, the officer who does what he is supposed to do can be accused of being an unreasonable, irrational rule-follower. When it’s a senior police executive, they will often try to intimidate the officer into admitting them, and then not mentioning they were there.

Most agencies have a policy that requires anyone entering a major crime scene to be logged in and out of the scene, and for each person on that log sheet to write a supplemental report of their actions at the scene. The buddy or executive will often tell the log keeper, “Don’t put my name on there,” and hope that peer pressure or fear of retaliation will force their compliance. This sort of thing aggravates detectives to no end, as they have a highly legitimate reason for knowing who was at the scene and what they did while they were there.

I’ve heard police supervisors and executives criticize a patrol officer for requesting specific resources at an unusual incident. It’s usually something like, “He can’t ask for that! He’s only an officer!”  (as opposed to a sergeant, lieutenant, etc.) I’ve reminded a few of those that, at this moment, that “only an officer” is the world’s foremost authority on the incident at hand, and if he says he needs something, you should have sufficient confidence in his training and experience to provide it for him.

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Written by Tim Dees on June 26th, 2014