I have been a Police Officer for 28 years now, and a supervisor for 18 years. I have made my share of mistakes, both as an Officer and a Sergeant. I have been representing supervisors for almost a decade, and doing it full time for the past 2.5 years.
PPSLA has had to change the way we look at incidents involving our members in a post-Ferguson age. No longer are we being judged based upon the few seconds in a use of force or critical incident (as Graham vs Connor would require). The role of every officer on scene is now being looked at and evaluated while our role as supervisors is being more scrutinized now than it ever has been.
If you as the supervisor are the one to use force, then stand by for a deeper inquiry. Even though the application of force could be justified by law, policy and tactics you are fooling yourself if you don’t think people will be wondering why a Sergeant or Lieutenant is the one delivering force, shooting, breaching the door, deploying a taser, or using OC spray.
Even if you were not on scene yet, prepare for the inquisition to begin. Questions like, were you monitoring, were you aware, what was your plan, were you en-route, what directions did you give, how does your squad normally do this, have you done this in the past, what training do you have to do what you did, do you know the policy that pertains to your actions, what approvals do you have to do this ect….
PPSLA is on standby 24/7. We get called on all critical incidents. We will respond to most of them even though the actual incident does not directly involve our member. We do this because we know from experience that questions will arise about the actions that took place prior to the incident, and your role as a supervisor.
I will warn you now, our interview with you may be more harsh or in-depth than anything the department asks you. We do this for a reason. When you sit in front of PSB, SID, or Homicide we want you to be prepared for any question that they may ask you. If PSB asks you something that your PPSLA representative didn’t already ask you or think about, we didn’t prepare you enough. That being said, it is hard for us to get a read on the way the investigation may go this early in. So we have to board up the windows and prepare for the hurricane, and hope it passes us by. The questions we ask may be tough, but we do it for a reason.
We will actively involve our lawyers at YPL. If we believe there is any chance of criminal or serious administrative implications, or if it’s a serious use of force, we will bring them out, and strongly urge you to speak with them before talking to any criminal investigators.
Here’s a quick review of who can be with you:
PSB interview subject of the investigation or witness
*PPSLA Member: PPSLA Rep
*Non PPSLA Member: Peer Supervisor who you locate, and is not a PPSLA rep
Criminal interview, subject of interview (non-witness)
*PPSLA Member: PPSLA provided Attorney at no cost to you (rep not permitted to be present)
*Non PPSLA Member: Counsel you hire
Criminal interview, witness
*PPSLA Member: preparation with PPSLA provided attorney at no cost to you, however they do not have the right to be in the interview with you, and neither does your rep.
*Non PPSLA Member: Counsel you hire
NOTE: you can refuse a criminal interview if you are the subject of the investigation (suspect), however you cannot refuse to be interviewed as a witness to a criminal investigation. You will be compelled as a condition of your employment with the city. You can still choose to not be interviewed as a witness, however it will likely lead to your dismissal.
In the past 2 years we have seen 2 Sergeants demoted, 1 Lieutenant given a 240hrs suspension, and 1 Sergeant moved from his specialty position all based upon actions taken or not taken. This does not include the countless number of inquiries that didn’t rise to the level of discipline.
Don’t think this can’t happen to you. Know and follow policy, be safe.
Please contact radio if you need an on-call PPSLA Representative or let me know if you have any questions.
James Smith, PPSLA Chief Representative