HUMOR IN UNIFORM
CAN YOU FALSIFY YOUR REPORT, PLEASE??
Report writing is something we police officers have always taken seriously. What we write in reports is often dissected and scrutinized and many times becomes the basis for prosecutors and defense lawyers securing their points and legal tenets of a case in court. After it is written, the report is actually an OFFICIAL DOCUMENT which often takes on a life of its own.
I remember once when a worker on an estate told me at the accident scene that he had no driver’s license and was speeding. I recorded what he said, word-for-word, in the accident and departmental report. Shortly thereafter, the owner of the estate realized that his insurance premium was going to take off like a Titan missile. He called me and asked me to change the report taking out those comments made by the operator.
I said I could not do that.
He then went to my Chief who said the same thing. He then went to the Town Supervisor who, correctly, told him it was a police matter and there was nothing he could do. The property owner’s last resort was to, again, approach me requesting the change in the accident report. I told him we had had this conversation before. If I changed the report, I MYSELF could get into trouble.
He muttered some profanities and that was the last of it.
IT’S NOT MY FAULT …
There was one Lieutenant who had a disdain for those of us deputies with a college degree. I could never understand why, but the only thing I could come up with was plain and simple JEALOUSY.
I was sent on a burning complaint which was easily resolved by telling the homeowner that within the town limits, burning was not allowed. He did not know about that rule and was profusely apologetic.
In my report, I wrote, “Upon arrival, one could observe smoke wafting through the area.” The report was kicked back with a comment “NO S.A.T. WORDS.” (He was referring to the Scholastic Aptitude Test is taken by high school students in their junior and senior years.)
I changed the report so it read “Upon arrival, smoke was lilting throughout the area.” No good. The same message kicked back to me “NO S.A.T. WORDS.” Finally, the report was submitted with the wording “Upon arrival, one could see smoke.” That was acceptable.
On another occasion, a fellow deputy requested a photographer be summoned to the scene for a fatal accident. The deputy judged that photographs and measurements were in order. The same lieutenant responded to the deputy’s request this way, “No photographer. I’m coming out.”
There were all kinds of difficulties with this Personal Injury Auto Accident, e.g. insurance inquiries, road construction questions, etc. The Assistant District Attorney called and asked to see the photographs. There were none. Of course, the lieutenant attempted to dish it off onto the responding deputy. No matter how he tried, the lieutenant could not escape the fact that HE stated, “No photographer. I’m coming out.”
THE ENRAGED CITIZEN SCREAMS AT THE CHIEF
Even something as simple as a home alarm call can lead to trouble. When I responded to one, I would record all vehicles in the driveway, their license plate and Vehicle Identification Numbers, any loose toys in the back yard, any footprints in mud or snow, any open windows or unlocked screen doors or gazebos.
My Chief chided me once saying that, “All this information is not necessary.” I would include it anyway, rather than simply say “All reachable doors and windows appeared to be secure.” and leave it at that.
On one occasion, a homeowner marched into the Chief’s office in a rage screaming, “My alarm went off and no one responded!!!!!” I was the deputy who responded to that alarm activation. With my usual extensive reporting in detail, gave the Chief plenty of information which he used to enlighten and calm the homeowner.
He read off to her all the vehicles in the driveway, in the garage (which I noted looking in the garage windows), loose toys in the yard, and home heating oil delivery bill tucked into the front door. In addition, there were three windows that were open on the second floor. I surmised that the wind blew the curtains which activated the motion sensors and, hence, the alarm.
The homeowner was stunned. She apologized for the prejudgment of claiming there was no officer responding to the alarm. To his credit, the Chief thanked me for the “excessive” information which, incidentally, he never criticized me for again.
As I said at the outset, reports suck up loads of time. It is annoying when they’re kicked back, so it is important to include even in the most insignificant details and circumstances.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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