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Dean Scoville

Dean Scoville

Associate Editor of Police Magazine and a retired patrol supervisor and investigator with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Sgt. Dean Scoville has received multiple awards for government service.
Patrol

Lazy Cops Make Life Harder on All of Us, and We Resent It

Kissing off calls and making sloppy, incomplete reports will come back to haunt you.

July 12, 2007  |  by - Also by this author

The ability and willingness to simply do the job right is one of the most underappreciated talents an officer can possess.

A widely recognized bane of the job among good cops is other cops’ inability or unwillingness to do their jobs. And nowhere is that inability and unwillingness more manifest than in that age-old ritual known as the "kiss off."

Kissing off calls can mean anything from failing to make appropriate referrals to failing to document crimes. Popular kiss-offs include the following:

The Lesser of Two Evils—One means of kissing off is to simply document the lesser of two crimes and completely ignore another related crime. For example, A training officer and his trainee handle a petty theft call as such, completely ignoring the robbery and assault with a deadly weapon that occurred incident to the suspect's detention by store security.

What Detectives Won't Know Won't Hurt Me—Under-documentation is another trick of the lazy cop. Example: An officer recovers a stolen ride that was used to commit additional burglaries, all of which has been previously documented with stolen properties described in prior reports. The officer recovers the car, arrests two suspects, and books only two pieces of evidence as "stolen recovered." Handling detectives then inventory the recovered vehicle only to find a slew of additional stolen property that not only clears the handling agency's burglaries, but those of other agencies, as well. Had the car simply been returned to the victim, it's possible that the suspects would have skated on additional charges and the property would have never been returned to its owners.

Miss, You Really Don't Want to Do This—Dissuading victims is a popular ploy. Incident to a follow-up investigation, a sex crimes detective comes across a call wherein a suspect vehicle had been identified in an indecent exposure call six months earlier. The victim at that time had given the investigating deputy a description of the suspect, the vehicle, and the license plate. With a minimum amount of investigation, the detective ascertains that the owner of the vehicle is a registered sex offender with prior convictions for sexual battery, stalking, and other charges. The detective speaks with the victim, who indicates that the handling deputy had warned her about possible reprisals by the suspect if she pursued the matter further. Because of this, the victim declined to file a report. Yet six months later, she is able to make a quick positive ID of the suspect on a six pack and proves to be an outstanding witness in this case.

As indecent exposures are often precursors to more serious offenses, I would hate to think that any suspect would become emboldened by our lack of vigilance and coordinated efforts against him.

But for some cops, there is no crime that can't be kissed off. The gamut runs from rape reports to murder. One deputy did a log entry on a comatose victim, citing that the victim's lack of consciousness precluded her from giving a statement. He claimed that he didn't know if she'd been a victim of an assault (despite the incident having been reported by others). When the victim expired two months later and Homicide Bureau came calling, all he could do was scratch out a quick "who done it" murder report.

When called on the carpet, officers are never at a loss for words. Excuses run include: Inter-shift or geographical responsibility ("It's not my job."), lack of expertise ("I wouldn't know where to begin."), too much time has passed ("Why didn't you report this sooner? We might have been able to do something?"), or not enough time had passed ("You'll calm down and reconsider.").
Whatever the excuse, the actual cause is usually one or more of these three things:

1. The officer doesn’t “have time” to document (usually because of some end-of-shift social commitment)

2. Ignorance of how to investigate and document

3. Laziness

Knowing how to do the job is job number one. When an officer looks upon challenges as learning opportunities and actually learns from them, she's at once streamlining her workload and allowing herself the opportunity to make her social appointments.

So don't just go through the motions or lean on someone else so much that you don't actually learn how to handle the situation. Doing a thorough job the first time, saves you the headache of revisiting the crap, and saves others from having to make a ton of corrections.

In the hierarchy of transgressions, not writing a report is arguably worse than writing a poor one (unless you write such a piss-poor report full of factually inaccurate information that you've hamstrung investigators' efforts thereafter). But rest assured, even if supervisors or peers don't bring it to your attention, your work habits will be the subject of discussion. And the danger is two-fold: Not only do you diminish your reputation, you enhance that of your fellow officer who knows how to do the job and actually does it. Think about that the next time you're bemoaning your lack of upward ascension.

And eventually, your kiss off will come up on someone's radar. That someone may be a detective, a supervisor looking into a citizen's complaint, a fellow officer who ended up doing your work, or an Internal Affairs type who is now investigating you for dereliction of duty.

Believe me, you’re better off taking the time and effort to write up the damned report and do your job.


Comments (4)

Displaying 1 - 4 of 4

fcvulcan @ 7/13/2007 12:08 PM

I really enjoyed this article because it echoes a point that I have almost preached to some officers. I am providing copies of this article to my shift supervisors as part of the daily brief I prepare. Great article

David Moore S-55 @ 7/13/2007 8:20 PM

Excellent! "Leadership" It's all about people making things happen. This does require supporting, defending the troops, mentoring, and old-fashion American Values, work ethic. The most important task of all, the people focus, it tends to get pushed aside for "mission" stuff. People are the mission and without people, you have no mission.

Thanks...this article will be shared!!!...DM

Collegecop_wa @ 7/17/2007 5:33 AM

Excellent article. I have had to work alongside some lazy officers in the past and pick up the slack on things they were perfectly comfortable in letting slide. My personal feeling on this: If you don't want to do the job, go work at Wal-Mart. Police work is a lot more than driving around in a car being a warm body for eight hours a day. One day your lazy attitude is going to get yourself, or someone else killed. Do the rest of us a favor and get into another line of work before we have to pay for your mistakes.

TomL238 @ 7/25/2007 12:34 PM

As a rookie, I was called to the Assignment Sgt in the Det Bureau. (Sgt.Steve Simon) He took the time to actually tell me what he wanted to see on my Burglary reports. After that, it was a breeze, and actually fun to go through the motions of preserving evidence and interviewing neighbors of the Burglary victims. I mean, Hey. What else am I doing out here??? Why not learn something and help the Detectives save some footwork so they can locate the 'Actors' of these crimes? No sense in covering the same ground over and over.
That Sgt's advice helped me in immeasureable ways which I tried to pass on to other new guys over the years. Being a cop is the best!
Tom....Woodbridge PD (NJ)
P.S. I never got to work in the Det Bureau. lol Then, that's a whole other story. Turns out, for me anyway, that the Patrol Division has always been where it's at!

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