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Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.



William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.
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You Can't Play Catch-Up

Forget the stories of street justice. You can’t do that.

December 28, 2010  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

We've all played some form of sports. We've had a miserable game and now in the late innings we're hitting and scoring. We call it playing catch-up. Running up the score, paying the pitcher back for the strike out and now get some more. This is a sandlot game, not the streets.

Plenty of cheap police novels and B movies feature cops dealing out street justice. The thug defied the cops, and now they're playing catch-up with him. That's what he deserves, right?

Wrong. This is an old television screenplay. In police work, we call it violating civil rights and criminal behavior. Don't fall for this.

Professional behavior is desired and demanded at all times. Every move you make is under scrutiny. Who knows how many public surveillance cameras you've appeared on today? You're going to act like a thug and jeopardize all you've worked for? I know most of my readers can't believe that this topic is being discussed.

Frankly, I hear trash talk about catching up every now and then. Somebody must have seen an old movie, and they thought cops could do this. Movies are not reality. Do not let this slip into your thought process. That is where your oath comes into play. You accepted a solemn and binding obligation to uphold the laws of the land, so do it! Furthermore, prevent garbage like this from ever happening. Prisoner abuse is illegal and stupid. Never let your future hinge on someone else's lack of control.

This can occur after a pursuit (vehicle or foot) during an the adrenalin dump when the testosterone is flowing. The creep just disrespected you by fleeing, and you can't wait to grab him! This is where a cover officer who is fresh and not emotionally invested in this call should interact, control and place the arrestee into the car. They have no quarrel, let them do it. Your report and charges will do the talking for you. Don't get stupid or you'll take a trip to internal affairs or the district attorney's office.

Stacking charges is as old as, "Honestly officer, I had only two drinks." So get real. Recall what you learned in the academy and what the prosecutors' tell you about this. The minor infraction may be your probable cause, but every swerve of the wheel might be rolled in the serious charges, not every little thing. Some try to do this to get bargaining leverage in court. Most judges and attorneys know when you're stacking; it's the paperwork version of catch-up. Make a strong case and not a stack of weak ones. 

This column may not be necessary for most of my readers, and I kind of like that. My job here today is to promote thinking of professionalism, keeping bad-cop stories out of the headlines. Ever notice that when one cop loses control, it's on every news service?

Let's give them another story to look for and keep ourselves beyond reproach.

Tags: Officer Misconduct, Professional Image, TV Cops


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