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False
Reports
When people lie to you, or they make false reports
about anything, it's not normally a big deal.  
However, when you, a police officer, make a false
report about anything, it is a very big deal.

When you become a police officer, you'll experience
frustration when you realize that few things will be
totally under your control.  However, there is one
thing that is totally under your control, and the only
way you can lose that control is if you relinquish it
through dishonesty, incompetence, stupidity, or
indifference.  Your credibility is yours to cherish and
preserve, or it's yours to lose...there is no middle
ground.

When you prepare a report, and you put your name
to it, you're stating that the contents of that report
are true and accurate to the best of your
knowledge.  It doesn't matter if the subject of your
report is a minor incident or one of more
importance.  Truth and accuracy are not applied on
a sliding scale.  They are applicable to everything all
of the time.

If you join a police department where supervisors
and commanders insist on accuracy, and the
department has a quality control system in place to
ensure the integrity of its reporting practices, you'll
experience continuous reminders of the importance
of credibility.  If you join a police department where
supervisors and commanders are more interested in
reducing the reported incidents of crime than they
are in ensuring accuracy, you'll be exposed to bad
influences, and it will be your sole responsibility to
protect your credibility.

When police officers, whether from dishonesty or
simple laziness, knowingly submit false reports,
they place themselves and others in jeopardy.
The year was 1990.  I had just changed over to day
work, and day work always brings housekeeping
duties like serving criminal summonses or
misdemeanor arrest warrants.  As I sat at roll call
glancing through several summonses and a couple
of arrest warrants, one name stood out; it was a
very recognizable name.  A man by the same name
was a Maryland State Senator.  The name appeared
as the defendant on one of the arrest warrants
charging the defendant with misdemeanor theft
under $300.

The warrant was in the form of a warrant control
sheet.  It verified the existence of the arrest
warrant filed at the department's Central Records
Division.  The warrant control sheet didn't have a
copy of the probable cause statement attached, so
I had no idea regarding the details of the offense.  
It didn't matter, the control sheet was all I needed
to lawfully execute the warrant and take the
defendant into custody.  In fact, you'll learn that a
police officer is never to question the content of an
arrest warrant.  The rule is simple.  A court issues
an arrest warrant, and a police officer executes the
arrest warrant.  However...as you read on, you'll
see another example where there will always be an
exception to every rule.  Just remember...if you
ever go up against a judge, you'd better have all
your facts and be 100% right.

When I looked at the defendant's address, I
assumed the defendant must be another person
who just had the same name.  I knew the
neighborhood wherein the Senator resided, and the
address on the warrant was located in a different
area of the district all together.  I was curious since
the defendant's date of birth put the defendant
within the Senator's age range, so I made that
warrant my first order of business that morning.

I knocked on the front door of the two story row
home.  As I was about to knock a second time, the
door opened, and a man greeted me, "Good
morning, Officer."  My silent pause evoked a
question from the man, "Can I help you, Officer?"  
My response put an expression of bewilderment on
the man's face, "It really is you," I said as I smiled.  
"Pardon me," the Senator asked?  "I have a warrant
for your arrest, Senator."  The Senator tilted his
head, and the blank expression on his face turned
to a small smile.  He leaned his head forward, and
he glanced up and down the street as if looking for
someone he knew.  He then asked, "This is a
joke...right?"

The Senator had good reason to believe he was
being subjected to a practical joke since the General
Election was only three days away, and he was
running for re-election to his state senate seat.  
While the Senator may have first suspected a joke,
my well learned suspicious nature made the whole
thing smell bad to me.  

I explained all that I knew about the warrant to the
Senator, and he stressed that he could add nothing
since he had no idea what had caused a warrant to
be issued for his arrest.  The Senator simply asked,
"What do we do now?"  I explained that, as a
matter of law, I was required to take him into
custody.  The Senator nodded and stated, "I'll do
whatever you say, Officer."  Now, here was a guy
who had been a senator for many years -- a
politician -- and he wasn't giving me anything close
to a hard time.  Of course, I'd already determined
that I wanted to see the actual warrant, before I
put my handcuffs on this man.  

During our conversation, I learned that the house
was owned by the Senator, but it was a vacant
rental property.  It was just a coincidence that I'd
located the Senator at the residence since he'd only
stopped by to check on the security of the house.  I
directed the Senator to go home, call his attorney,
and wait for me to contact him.  Talk about a
sincere look of gratitude...the Senator thanked me,
and he assured me he would anxiously await my
return.

I stood at the counter in the Central Records
Division reading the probable cause statement
within the actual arrest warrant.  Firstly, the
charging document had originally been issued as a
criminal summons by a court commissioner.  The
criminal summons simply required the signature of
the defendant to promise to appear for trial...just
like a traffic citation.  Of course, since the Senator
did not reside at the address on the summons,
previous efforts to serve the summons had been
unsuccessful.  After thirty days, and several
unsuccessful attempts to serve, the summons had
been returned to the court where a District Court
judge upgraded the summons to an arrest warrant.

It was clear from the typed portion of the document
that the victim, or the court commissioner, had
identified the defendant from property records,
because the court commissioner initially typed the
names of both the Senator and his wife as the
defendant.  Since only one person goes on one
charging document, someone had crossed out the
name of the wife.  

The probable cause statement, itself, had been
written by the victim who was the owner of another
vacant house next to the Senator's house.  The
victim, like the Senator on this day, had previously
stopped by her property to check its security.  She
found an electrical extension cord running between
her house and the Senator's house.  The
suspect(s) had entered the victim's house through
a window and plugged the cord into an outlet.  The
other end of the cord ran through a partially
opened window of the Senator's house.  The victim
was alleging theft of electricity.  The charge of theft
was incomplete.  The top charge should have been
burglary since the victim's house had been entered
by the suspect(s).  Anyway, so far, so good.

The part I liked best was the victim's description of
the police response.  The victim identified the police
officer by name and badge number.  She described
how she showed the officer every physical aspect of
the offense.  She even listed the central complaint
number of the report which the officer provided to
her.  Since I was right at the counter, I filled out a
request form for a copy of the police report, and I
handed it to the police cadet.  Moments later, the
cadet returned with a copy of the officer's report.

It didn't take long to read that report.  The offense
box said, "Unfounded Larceny."  The narrative was
longer by one word, "No larceny occurred."  

I immediately set about investigating the incident
since this was the first time it received any police
attention.  I soon identified a suspect who, prior to
the offense, had been doing repairs to the
Senator's rental property.  During his employment,
the suspect had copied the key to the front door.  
After the repairs were completed, the Senator had
the electricity turned off, but the suspect returned
and used his unauthorized key to take up residence
in the house.  When the Senator was made aware
of the suspect's presence, the Senator ordered him
from the dwelling, and he had the door lock
changed.

My next stop was the District Court where I met
with the judge who issued the arrest warrant.  The
Judge, a very competent one I might add, read the
results of my investigation with great interest.  
Shaking her head, the Judge simply asked, "How did
I miss that?"  She was referring to missing the
Senator's name, and the circumstance of the
upcoming election.  The fact was that criminal
summonses being upgraded to arrest warrants was
a routine matter that occurred in no small
numbers.  Had she recognized the circumstances,
she would have had the same questions I did, and
the summons would have received more scrutiny,
before it was upgraded to an arrest warrant.

With the arrest warrant for the Senator recalled, I
set about obtaining the proper warrants charging
the proper suspect with burglaries of both vacant
houses.  As for the Senator, he still had to suffer
the embarrassment of appearing before the same
judge to have the original charge against him
dismissed in open court.  Of course, that Judge was
just as embarrassed as the Senator.
You'll probably agree that I did the right thing by
questioning the content of that arrest warrant, but
doing the right thing will never make you immune
from criticism.  I received a fair amount of criticism
from some other police officers and supervisors.  
You'll learn that some police officers, no matter their
experience or rank, take a pretty narrow view of a
lot of things.  Those same officers and supervisors
considered my actions to be worse than the total
incompetence displayed by the original police officer
who did absolutely nothing and topped it off with a
blatantly false report.  That incompetent officer
escaped all criticism, or worse, through the only
competent thing he'd probably ever done as a police
officer...he resigned.

Before you even become a police officer, you must
realize that your credibility will be the most
important thing you own.  Every report you write
will follow you forever, and if you knowingly make a
false report, you'll be doing a grave injustice to
yourself and those you serve.  Most police officers
who write false reports, as in the example above,
justify that despicable act as a matter of
expediency, because they don't view the incidents
of sufficient importance.  Big or small, a lie is a lie,
and if you do it, it makes you a liar.
"When police officers, whether from
dishonesty or simple laziness, knowingly
submit false reports, they place themselves
and others in jeopardy." ~ Barry M. Baker
Copyright © 2018  Barry M. Baker  
CareerPoliceOfficer.com
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