It's amazing to me how quickly some officers stop bothering to follow the most basic procedures. The other day the local news media ran a story about an escaped suspect. Officers brought him in for questioning about involvement in a robbery. A patrol unit drove the suspect to the agency's main office in a marked car, while detectives from the robbery unit met them there. Once the suspect was dropped off in one of the main interview rooms, something went terribly wrong. There was an obvious lack of communication between the transport unit and the robbery detectives. The suspect was somehow left alone, walked out the back door of the agency, and escaped.
Although the suspect was captured soon after, his escape was an embarrassing moment that could have easily been prevented. These kinds of mishaps fall under the category of failing to heed lessons learned in Cop 101.
As a supervisor, making sure that policies and procedures are being followed should be part of your daily routine. Following these protocols creates a baseline that gives you much needed consistency during any operation. That baseline is what I call Cop 101. For example, Cop 101 includes keeping a chain of custody for evidence. It also includes understanding the difference between cover and concealment. And obviously, Cop 101 reminds you that you never leave a prisoner unattended. Covering the basics will always give you the ability to handle any type of call regardless of its level of complexity. As a supervisor you make your bread and butter with Cop 101.
However, too often Cop 101 starts to break down almost immediately after graduating from the police academy. Once you get hired, the first thing your field training officer tells you is to forget all that "academy crap." Unfortunately, this can set the wrong tone and give the new hire the false impression that you get to pick and choose which policies and procedures are important. Over time, the basics get ignored and officers start taking multiple things for granted. But allowing this to happen is dangerous. The truth is, some shortcuts can become fatal while others may lead to disciplinary action.
As a supervisor you live in Cop 101. Don't ever let someone convince you that you don't have to sweat the small stuff. Obviously the person promoting such a falsehood has never had someone miss a handgun during a search, fail to turn in evidence properly, or have a case thrown out because the arresting officer forgot to read the suspect Miranda warnings. Bad things happen when people ignore Cop 101. Making sure that basic police procedures are being followed is up to you.
You have to become a hands-on supervisor. Make sure you ask questions, conduct random inspections, and let it be known you will hold people accountable. Set the standards early and follow through. You learned certain skills in the academy for a reason. Until someone can show you a better way, keep doing what you were taught.
Now, don't confuse covering the basics with having to strictly interpret policy. You can get as creative as necessary based on the situation. I learned early on that the tactical situation determines what you do, not policy. But even with all that, there were things I never compromised on. For example, handcuffs go behind a subject's back and not in the front. If you want to do your detective magic during an interview, then get one of those corrections belts that allows for handcuffing a subject in the front but restricts mobility. And remember that someone must be with the handcuffed suspect at all times. It's hard for someone to escape with an officer watching and always within reach.
Having the proper tools is also essential. One of my pet peeves as platoon lieutenant was people leaving equipment at home. How do you forget your shotgun for range training class, your flashlight on night shift, or your radar tuning fork when it's your turn to run radar? I cured many of those ills with surprise inspections.
I would pick an unannounced date and ask to see random pieces of equipment. Since they never knew what I was going to ask for they always had to have all of their gear with them. Missing a piece of kit without a valid reason led to you losing your assigned car for a few days. Since they hated driving pool cars, they got the message. Except for the rare occasion that can happen to anyone, we never had a real problem.
One of my sergeants used to say, "You want to stay ready, not have to get ready." It became an unofficial motto and one of the driving forces behind Cop 101. The bottom line here is to always cover basic police procedure. Do that and you'll be fine. If you ignore Cop 101, your mistake could very well make the evening news.
Amaury Murgado retired a senior lieutenant from the Osceola County (FL) Sheriff's Office with over 29 years of experience.