Four officers were convicted in the shooting on a bridge after the Katrina Hurricane. The officers were guarding a bridge and shot and killed two people, and wounded four others who were trying to cross the bridge. The officers claimed the people on the bridge shot first. There were questions about the evidence, questions about the truth of many of the officers’ statements and questions about the sequence of events.
When writing a police report, tell the truth. It is much better to admit to a mistake of fact, an error of judgment or other difficulty in the event than it is to leave out material facts or to lie about them. It can make the difference between a verbal reprimand, written counseling, or even termination and prosecution. Everyone will occasionally make a mistake, people understand that. When police make mistakes it can have deadly consequences, but usually a mistake is not a criminal act. Lying on a report can take a questionable incident and convert it into a crime.
When police are found to be lying in a report it taints the case against the suspect and it sometimes turns the police into suspects. If you have a significant use of force incident, it is okay to speak to a co-worker, supervisor, union representative, or lawyer before you complete your report. You want to record the facts as you know them. It can be helpful to have someone you trust assist you with both remembering and recording the facts. The police department and the suspect will both have lawyers, there is nothing wrong with you consulting with one before you write a report that could be used against you in an administrative or legal proceeding. In a complex event you may need help getting the facts straight; that’s what the SGT Says.