Thursday, July 31, 2014


In California we have what we call Reserve Police Officers.  Level 1 Reserves have the same training, undergo the same screening, and have the same authority on duty as Regular full time officers.  Reserve Officers don't always get paid, and when the do get paid, they often earn less than Regular Officers or get paid at the low end of their pay scale.

Reserve Officers provide police services to supplement the Regular staff.  They are not intended to replace Regular Officers.  Reserve Officers typically have a full time regular job outside police work.  Sometimes they are security guards, but often have nothing to do with law enforcement.  They often bring civilian perspectives and skills to police agencies.

Most of the time Reserves work a few hours of patrol each month, sometimes alone, and sometimes partnered with Regular Officers.  In times of special need, such as a scheduled event, like a parade, Reserves can provide substantial additional manpower to aid the Regulars.  In a major emergency, Reserve Officers can be called up to provide help that may not be available from mutual aid agencies, and that know your agency and jurisdiction.  Reserves are a cost effective solution to declining budgets and a good way to expand your manpower; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Background Check

An officer from Escondido, California was killed by her husband while at home.  Several times every year officers are killed by their spouse or an officer kills his family and frequently himself.  We do a very poor job of suicide prevention and of protecting our officers from dangerous family members.

I think that we need to screen close family as well as officers when they are hired.  I have always said we need to update our background checks every few years.  The military renews their background checks every four years for security clearances.

I believe that a quick credit check, drivers license check, criminal history and a few other things can be done in an hour by computer by your own agencies detectives.  I think that should be done annually.  I also think that a more complete background check should be done to catch up your information every three to five years.  People change, join gangs, get into financial trouble, marry a bad spouse and have all kinds of life changes.  It might be a good idea to update our information; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Brooklyn Bridge

Officers watch the Brooklyn Bridge twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  It is a major terrorist target, in a city that has probably seen more terrorist attacks than any other city in America.  Recently, two large flags that fly on the top of the bridge were replaced by heavily bleached out American flags.

How can such a carefully guarded bridge, a structure known all over the world, that is a huge building that is critical to the smooth operation of New York City have such a thing happen?  Is is just a prank?  Is is it a warning?  Is it a message?  We don't know, but what we do know is that security made a major blunder that night.

Complacency is a killer of officers.  Watching a boring bridge day in, day out, night after night is dull, tedious project.  It is the type of job that may never result in any terrorist attack being stopped.  It may never be a target.  It might be destroyed along with the officers guarding it who may be powerless to stop it.  Still, it is an important job and one that needs to be taken seriously; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Officers responded to a report of a murder suspect having been sighted at a home.  As soon as they arrived, he started shooting at them and hit two of them.  More officers responded and were pinned down.  Additional officers responded with armored vehicles and rescued the pinned officers.  The wounded officers were taken to the hospital.  An armored vehicle crashed into the building, they inserted tear gas and the suspect came out shooting and was shot.

Officers often respond to calls that could be serious, but they act as if everything will be okay.  They pre-judge the call to be nothing important or dangerous prior to arrival.  If you are responding to a report of a dangerous murderer, then act as if a dangerous murderer was actually on site.

Make sure you have enough officers at a staging area away from the actual site were the suspect is supposed to be located.  Then move in together in a coordinated manner, as if you really expect to find a murderer.  Complacency gets officers killed; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Winning Mind

As police officers from time to time we may be involved in dangerous encounters with people.  We might have to wrestle someone into handcuffs.  We might have to fight them into handcuffs.  We might even have to use weapons, even deadly weapons, to win the fight against the suspect who does not want to submit.

We have to work for twenty or thirty years in order to retire.  And we have to win every encounter we have in those thirty years.  If we lose, criminals can escape to do more harm to others, or we may be injured or killed.

We need to develop a winning mindset that says we will overcome resistance.  That we will always succeed in our encounters with suspects.  We will never underestimate suspects and will call for help when needed.  We will wear our body armor and carry less lethal weapons.  We will use no more than reasonable force, yet we will use enough force and soon enough to minimize harm both to ourselves and fellow officers, but also to the suspect, and to the public; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


A local agency has a Retired Senior Volunteer Program as part of the police department.  They perform various crime prevention and public awareness functions as volunteers.  They wear a uniform, but one that is different from the police officers.

They don't get paid, so their cost to the agency is low.  They use old police cars that have been retired but are still in good condition, a bit of an analogy to the people in the program.  They have retired from their original profession, but now perform public service helping the police.

They carry a police radio, but no other gear, they are never expected to use force or participate in arrests.  Residents of the city can phone in that they are going away on vacation, and these folks check on the property a couple times a day to insure everything is okay.  They give out crime prevention tips at local fairs and gatherings.  It's another way to involve the community and reduce crime; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Crime Prevention

Crime prevention can be better than catching criminals.  From the standpoint of the citizen do you want to be a victim who has had the criminal caught, or do you want to avoid being victimized in the first place?

There are many things officers can do to prevent crime that we really, seldom do on patrol.  Look for homes with open doors, open windows, and open garage doors.  Open doors are perfect access for burglary, even home invasion or rape.  Encourage people to keep their homes closed up, particularly as night approaches.

Look for signs that people are out of town.  A stack of yellowed newspapers in the driveway, mail hanging out of the mailbox and a horde of pizza flyers stuck in the front door certainly screams that people are away from home.  Encourage people to have papers and mail held and have a neighbor or friend pick up the pizza ads from the front door.  I have found people have left their car doors open for the night, their car keys in the trunk of their cars, and many other invitations to crime.  Get out of the car and knock on the door.  It's an opportunity to prevent a crime and do some good PR for your agency; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Report Writing

When writing a report narrative, make it in chronological order.  Tell the story as it happened to you, as you experienced it.  That makes it easier to write and easier to remember.  When you write the report, sometime it can be helpful to make a rough draft.

Jot down a few thoughts so you can be certain to include them.  I like to write my report narrative on computer so I can edit it later, easily as I put my thoughts together and organize the correctly.  Don't worry about format and spelling at first.  You can always go back and change things as you work on the report.

Include your thoughts that you had at the time of the event.  Include changes to your opinions as events change or as you gain more data.  Be sure to write how far away the suspect was, and describe his body language and how you interpreted it.  The suspect balled his hands into fists, he was five feet away from me and I feared he was going to hit me.  Clear writing about what actually happened can make your cases easier and keep you out of trouble; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Verbal Commands

When you are faced with a confrontation, use verbal commands.  State the obvious.  It may be obvious to you, but it might not be obvious to the suspect or to the people watching on video.  Witness need to be able to testify that you shouted "Police officer." "Drop the knife."  "Don't move."  "Don't come any closer."  "You are under arrest."

When you go to the range or perform arrest control techniques practice using verbal commands.  Verbal commands should be simple.  They should be clear.  They should be easy to remember.  Have a short list of commands that work for several types of incident.

Drop the weapon, drop the knife, drop the gun, are all good, clear, simple commands.  Identify yourself as a police officer.  If you have police powers, you are a police officer.  Mentioning your agency may be a bit long in an emergency.  Verbal commands can help make a situation clear to the suspect and to witnesses; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


As soon as you put your uniform on, assume you are on video.  Inside the station, and particularly outside.  Not long ago, a police officer out in the middle of the desert, with no other people around for miles was video recorded having sex with his girlfriend on his patrol car.  He was fired.

Just assume that every thing you do will be recorded.  If you do anything even remotely interesting, it will be posted on YouTube within minutes of it happening.  If you do anything highly interesting, it will be posted on the 24/7 news cycle for perhaps days, even weeks, and broadcast all over the world.

The video will be showing out of context.  It will be shown edited.  It will be shown with portions being looped.  It will be commented on by people who know nothing about law enforcement, and nothing about the circumstances of your encounter.  Don't intentionally say or do anything that you don't want to be seen by your mother, your sergeant, and the district attorney; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Wear Your Armor

It's summer and it's hot.  I wear my armor every day, all shift long if I am in uniform.  I always bring water or Gatorade with me in the car when I am working.  I carry a small cooler in my car so that my beverages can stay cold.

I always bring a change of tee shirt so that when my tee shirt soaks through, I can change into a fresh one.  I don't go more than four hours without changing if I can avoid it.  Sometimes I even wear two at a time to soak up the perspiration.

Body armor is too important not to wear, even when it is very hot.  It can be uncomfortable.  It can be the cause of a heat rash on your body from the dampness and heat.  Still, it's the only thing you can wear to stop a bullet.  It can also help to reduce injury in a traffic collision or even in a fight.  Wear your armor; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


The Supreme Court of the United States has said that officers can't search cell phones on anyone in custody.  The officers require a warrant to search the cell phone of suspects in custody.  I think this is a reasonable requirement.  Just because someone is arrested for a minor traffic warrant does not mean officers should have the right to gather up all the data on their electronic devices.

It used to be that cell phones only had cell phone numbers inside them and gathering that information is not much more than getting a paper address book.  These days, cell phones contain texts, phone messages, photos and videos.  Much more than a simple phone would contain.

If there is a reasonable law enforcement reason for gathering the information on a cell phone, then it should not be too difficult to get a warrant.  I think the legal standard to get such a warrant should be low, given that it is only data being seized and not physical property or people.  Part of the way we can keep getting this data warrants is to keep the information obtained secret.  Don't release nude photos and sex videos sized unless they relate directly to the specific crime; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Public Image

One violent criminal gang threatens the police so their rival criminal gang says they will protect the police? I would rather they pledge to give up their criminal street gang affiliation and lead the straight life instead. 

Certainly they won't follow laws, department policy or rules of evidence or the general safety of the public. This is just one way that sophisticated gangs are using the media to improve their public image. Of course, it is a satire site so that may have some bearing on the article.

During the Vietnam War the Hells Angels motorcycle club asked to go to Vietnam as a group to fight the war.  Of course they were not really sincere, and were simply looking for a way to improve their image.  Some gangs are very aware of the value of public relations and they use social media and other methods to get their message out of the public, often distorting their image as an ongoing criminal enterprise.  Your agency also needs to work with the public in enhance their image; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Arrest Techniques

It is the duty of a citizen to comply with the lawful orders of a police officer. He was being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes, which is big business in the north east and finances organized crime and even terrorist organizations. Put your hands behind your back and go quietly. The suspect even said he was not going peacefully. The cops did not beat him, they did not shoot him. It's hard to handcuff a large adult man who does not want to go to jail. How many men tackle a quarterback in a football game? Life on the streets is no game.

It is also the duty of police officers to take the proper care of citizens, even the criminals.  There are procedures in place for making an arrest.  In the NYPD the choke hold is prohibited.  Sometimes when people are choked their windpipe can collapse and they can suffocate.  Also large suspects in particular can suffer from positional asphyxia and die because they can't breath in the position they are placed in after arrest.

When a suspect suffers injury, even stops breathing it is the duty of the police to take proper care of the suspect.  There are several alternatives.  Render first aid yourself, CPR is often taught using only chest compressions now.  Use a breathing bag, use a face shield, or simply do CPR.  Snatch and run, put the suspect in a police car and race him to a local emergency room.  Waiting five or ten minutes for the paramedics when a suspect is not breathing is not a good idea; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Stop Killing Ourselves

An officer was responding to a traffic collision when he ran off the road and his patrol car rolled over several times.  The officer was ejected from the vehicle and was killed.  What does that likely tell us about this incident?

The officer was likely driving too fast for conditions.  He was driving so fast that he lost control and ran off the road.  His car rolled over several times, that tends to indicate that he was driving very fast.  The officer was ejected from the car, that would seem to indicate he was not wearing his seat belt.

No matter how important or dangerous your response is, you have to get there in order to help.  Don't drive too fast for conditions, it's easy to want to arrive sooner, but dropping a few miles per hour won't make a significant difference in how long it will take for you to arrive.  Wear your seat belt.  Never take it off until you have slowed and are just ready to stop and get out.  We have to stop killing ourselves; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Seated In the Patrol Car

A civilian found an officer dead of gunshot wounds, seated in his patrol car.  The officer had been investigating a shots fired call in the area along with other officers.  There were empty shell casings outside the patrol car.

If possible, don't let people walk up to your patrol car.  It's a very dangerous position for you to be in because it's hard to get your gun out and it's hard to move away to cover.  The car door and car window are poor cover.

If you have to stop your car and work on paperwork, consult your map or otherwise look down for a few minutes, try and do so where you can see around you and see people approaching you.  If someone walks towards you either drive away or get out of the car.  If you have to look down, then look up every few seconds so you are not surprised; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Officers in Indianapolis, Indiana responded to a report of shots fired in an area.  They attempted to contact several men in an alley and were met with gunfire.  The officers returned fire.  The suspect was wounded and one officer was killed.

A shots fired call is one of the most dangerous calls we respond to, you can't be sure it was not firecrackers or cars backfiring or real gunfire.  Since there is often no particular victim or suspect, officers are left to look about hoping to find some kind of evidence of a crime or that it was nothing.

Approaching people in an alley can be very dangerous.  They are often in dark or low light.  They know who they are, and they know who you are, but you don't know them, or what they are doing.  Try to call them out of the alley out to the street if your are reasonably close to the end of the alley.  Use your flashlights away from your body to illuminate them; watch their hands.  Have them face away from you, you are responding to a report of shots fired, so extra precautions are a good idea.  Bring the unit around and use the spotlights, and take down lights and high beams to blind the subjects if possible.  Look for positions of cover, trash cans, telephone poles.  Alleys are dangerous; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, July 14, 2014


A man went into a drug store and pulled a knife on the guard and took his gun.  When the police arrived the man shot and killed one of the responding officers.  Other officers returned fire and killed the suspect.

While I have worked most of my adult life as a private security guard, in addition to being a reserve police officer, I recognize that many security guards are very poorly trained.  Often they lack situational awareness.  In this case the guard allowed his gun to be taken away by a man with a knife. 

Certainly anyone can be taken unawares, but most security guards could certainly use more training.  More training for guards means they are more professional.  More training means the company can charge more for their services.  Police generally are reasonably well trained, now it's time for law enforcement to insure better training for guards; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Pursuit and Shooting

A mentally ill woman crashed into a White House checkpoint, almost ran down officers several times and was only stopped after a pursuit and she was shot five times, out of eighteen rounds fired at her by two police officers.

The officers were cleared of any wrong doing in the shooting, the woman was unarmed.  The officers were able to articulate why they felt deadly force was necessary.  The woman had rammed several occupied vehicles and even drove down the sidewalk.  Each of these times no one was injured, but certainly that was more due to luck than her judgement.

The woman was suffering from several mental conditions and yet was still out loose on society, wreaking havoc and endangering the public.  Police need to learn how to better handle mentally ill people and how to better predict the violent behaviors that often result in minor crimes, homelessness, injuries and even mass murder; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Ped Stop

We don't always stop people in cars, sometimes we stop pedestrians.  People just waking down the street.  People seeming doing nothing wrong, just out for a walk.  Well, we don't stop people just for going for a walk, so first of all, make sure you have either a permissive encounter or a reason to lawfully detain or arrest the pedistrians.

If it's a permissive encounter and they want to leave, you have to let them go.  If it's a detention or arrest, you can require that they stay.  Remember, what starts as a permissive encounter may escalate to a detention or arrest if you gather new information about your subject.

In any pedestrian stop, call it in to the dispatcher so they know where you are and what you are doing.  Stop behind the suspect or well in front of them and make them come to you. That way you have a reactionary gap to anything they might do to hurt you.  Control the encounter, control the hands, get back up if you need it; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Big Brother

What happens when we have the ability to record video taken from the officers head, his chest, his patrol car and monitor it in real time at the station?  This technology probably already exists, but is certainly not yet common, durable or cost effective.  Still this will probably meet those criteria soon.

Will your supervisors sit in the dispatch office, watching every move each officer makes in the field?  Will he see every bite you take of your lunch?  Will he see every encounter you have with every citizen?  Will he see you pick up your dry cleaning on duty, or watch you type in your PIN number when you got to the ATM for lunch money?

Will the supervisor interact with you on every call?  Giving you advice on how to handle each family dispute, traffic ticket, and SWAT call out in real time as he watches your three video displays?  Will he start timing your lunch breaks, watching to see if you don't leave your beat, or spend too much time in the bathroom.  I don't mind if my supervisor goes on a ride along with me, but I don't think I am very enthusiastic about Big Brother watching my every move; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Captain Video

Many officers are now wearing cameras on their bodies on duty.  There is so much to think about with these devices.  When will they turn on?  Will you videotape yourself going to the bathroom?  Who is in control of the download and storage of the data?  Will your agency store everything, forever?

What is your policy on when you have to videotape something and what happens if you don't follow that policy?  If you are on a traffic stop do you have to record everything that happens?  What happens in a simple report call of a cold burglary?  Do you record that too?  Can you record the point of entry and other evidence to be attached to the report somehow?

What happens to video that records a major incident or is funny?  Will it be on YouTube ten minutes after you get off work?  So you can be the laughing stock of the Internet, or the target of the suspects friends?  Can you or the general public get a copy of a video?  Video is a brave new world; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Code 7

In the last few years at least six officers have been murdered while simply sitting at a table and eating with another officer.  Where do you eat?  Where do you have a cup of coffee?  Where do you meet with another officer?

The safest place to eat is back at the police station.  My agency has a nicely equipped break room with seating for six, which is more officers than we typically field on a shift!  At least one other agency frequents our break room because their jurisdiction overlaps a bit with ours.  We welcome them to our station.

If you can't eat at the station, think about alternate locations.  Perhaps another city building that is not generally open to the public?  How about a hospital lunch room?  If you have to eat at a public location, sit facing the door and find a location in the back, that is not visible from outside the business.  Don't park the patrol car right in front of the door so it is not apparent that a cop is inside.  Stay code yellow even when eating; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Lies, Damn Lies

Go out there and do your job as well as you can.  Write reports that accurately reflect what you did, and try to be specific about what you did and why you did it.  If you don't know what to do, it's okay to back off and ask for help, but sometimes you just have to make a decision.

If you make a mistake, don't compound the mistake by trying to cover it up.  Just consider that everything you do is probably being videotaped with sound.  It may not be, but every ten year old has a phone with a camera on it, and every business has cameras too.

When you make a report, verbally or in writing, it's okay to take a moment to think about it.  It's okay to consult with your union representative or your attorney.  Just like the suspects, you have rights too, including the right to avoid self-incrimination.  That does not mean you can lie or leave things out that are pertinent to an investigation.  We have a difficult job, don't make it harder than it has to be; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Body Armor

Body armor is very helpful if you get shot in a place that's covered by the armor.  It's also useful for other reasons too.  If you are involved in a traffic collision, the armor can protect you.  It's very good in head on collisions because even a new steering wheel can damage your chest if the car is really moving.

Most body armor is not designed to protect against edged weapons.  Many knives, particularly a dirk or ice pick type with a narrow cross section will penetrate armor.  Still, it will require the suspect to strike the blow harder than normal to achieve a deadly result.  Also a ceramic or metal chest insert will stop a knife blow.  Armor will also provide some protection from slashing cuts, but there is no guarentee.  Still, it's better protection than your shirt.

If someone uses a blunt object to hit you in the armored parts of your body the armor can be very effective.  I have been punched in the chest a couple times over the years and it was nothing with the body armor on me.  Body armor, it's not just for guns; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Body Armor

It's hot.  It's tempting to avoid wearing body armor.  In a short period of time you can soak though your tee shirt with sweat on a hot day.  If you wear armor you can get a heat rash on your skin under the armor.

It can be tempting to just avoid that problem by not wearing the armor.  That is a mistake.  Always wear your armor, no matter how hot it is where you are working.  I always have at least two tee shirts and often more on hot days, I return to the locker room and change shirts.  If you can't go back to your station, then find someplace in your beat where you can change clothes.

Hospitals and fire stations are good, safe places to go to change clothes or use the bathrooms.  Other government buildings can be good too, just make sure you don't have to change in a room with the general public.  Put a little powder on your body to help absorb the sweat.  Despite all these precautions you will still be hot and uncomfortable, and that better than being hit with a bullet; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

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A California Highway Patrol stopped a woman who was walking on the freeway.  They got into an physical altercation and he was videotaped sitting astride her and punching her about ten times before an off duty officer stopped that they got her handcuffed.

Police do many things every day that look terrible to the general public.  That does not mean they are improper, it just means they look bad.  In our society we seldom see real examples of physical violence, so when we do see it, it is shocking.  Just because an officer does something that "looks bad" does not mean it is bad.  When an adult does not want to go to jail peacefully, it can be very difficult to get them into handcuffs.

The CHP seems to be handling the situation well.  They are making general statements and not drawing conclusions.  They have placed the officer on paid administrative leave while they conduct their investigation.  The woman was held for a mental evaluation and there was no word on any injuries.  Until everyone either willing complies with an officers commands or we have phasers to stun people with, these kinds of incidents will always continue to happen; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, July 4, 2014

July 4th

On July 4th every year my agency has to coordinate a parade in town.  We have to all but close the whole town to vehicle traffic for about four or five hours.  We detour vehicles around the edge of the city, including Metro Transportation buses.

There is a lot of planning that goes into such an event.  Notify the public transit systems. Notify the fire department, neighboring fire departments, notify neighboring police and sheriff departments too.  Make sure all city agencies are aware of what's happening.  Get the buy in of elected officials, and notify the newspapers.

Post no parking signs a week ahead of time, if possible.  Get officers on site hours before the event so that any parked vehicles that are blocking traffic for the event.  Mobilize your staff months ahead of time.  I bring in every reserve officer, every cadet, every parking control officer and as many regulars I can get to come in, and extra dispatchers.  Large event's require large staffing; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Job Actions

A major city in the Southern United States has voted to cut benefits for their police officers.  In these difficult economic times and with Obamacare creating chaos in the health care system many employers both public and private have had to make cuts in benefits.

There has been a rumor that the officers will call in sick in large numbers to protest this cut in benefits.  This agency has a very strict sick leave policy and I think they should follow it exactly.  Any officer who does not show up with a doctors note stating he needed to be off work for a valid medical reason that is dated the day of the time off gets fired.

Police work is a public trust and there is a reason they are not allowed to strike.  The pay may not be much but it's steady and you knew it was low when you were hired.  I have no sympathy for job actions for cops who endanger public safety like that.  Just like Ronald Reagan who fired the Air Traffic Controllers when endangered public safety by walking off the job; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Emergency Vehicles

Cities in New York state have been giving vehicles equipped with red flashing lights and sirens to various officials.  They include the comptroller, and other elected officials who are part of an emergency management team.

I am opposed to giving emergency equipment to anyone who is not a first responder and driving an emergency vehicle.  If any of these other people need to respond to an incident then they can either drive there normally or they can ride in a police vehicle.

Many citizens don't pull over of police and fire vehicles now, having non-first responders with emergency equipment further dilutes the respect for first responder vehicles.  I also suspect the people who are driving these vehicles are neither professional drivers, nor have they attended emergency driving school.  I also wonder if their driving records are checked and rechecked periodically as they are with police.  It could be a significant liability for their agency; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Unintentional Discharge

An officer called for help chasing shoplifters.  The back up officer went in foot pursuit and at some time during the event his handgun went off, hitting himself in the leg.  There is no indication that he pulled the trigger.

Never point the gun at anything you are not willing to shoot. Don't put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot.  Treat every gun as loaded, all the time.  Always be sure of your target before you shoot.

Following these rules will almost always prevent an unintentional discharge of your firearm or at least it will help to minimize the damage of an unintentional discharge.  I suspect it is unlikely the officer may have had his finger on the trigger when he re-holstered his weapon. I suppose it is possible that some kind of mechanical problem may have caused the weapon to discharge, but an armorer will be able to tell that.  We shall see; that's what the SGT Says.