Tips for Successful Gang Prosecutions

Police officers must have a pristine file, a file that if read by anyone gives all of the information the prosecutor needs.

Mistrust has grown among police officers and prosecutors in the past 10 years. The officers feel the prosecutors are lazy and disinterested, and the prosecutors feels the officers haven't put in the time and effort to build cases that can be successfully prosecuted.

I know this statement is "beating a dead horse," but there must be a connection, a trust in order to accomplish the goal. The goal is successful prosecution of the gang member and a conviction to keep him or her off the streets. Egos must be set aside, and both sides have to listen to each other.

Police officers must have a pristine file, a file that if read by anyone gives all of the information the prosecutor needs. When I was with the Prince George's County (Md.) Police Department's gang unit, there were several prosecutors I sought out, because we developed a working bond. I knew what they were looking for, and they knew what I would provide to make the case.

For this blog former Prince George's Assistant State's Attorney Anthony Mayo provided me with some key elements for a successful gang prosecution:

• Your file

• Victim(s), witnesses, and suspect information

• All written statements and what was said. These statements must be signed by the victim, witness, or suspect, and witnessed and signed by you

• All photographs paramount to your case

• All field notes by responding officers en route, on scene to include dispatcher tapings, debriefings, chance meetings, and any diagrams of the crime scene or dwellings

• Property receipts, arrest, investigative, and supplementary reports, jail receipts, search warrants, and inventory receipts

• Jail records to include inmate telephone calls, inmate mail, and jail visitors. Who visited the target gang member? Are they gang members? Family? Other acquaintances? Who leaves money on their account?

• Prior criminal history. Are there any "gang flags" or warnings?

• All arrests. Were the arrests gang related or gang motivated? Were there any convictions? Is the gang member on parole or probation? Are there "no gang contact" provisions for that parole or probation?

Remember your credibility and integrity is at stake. Also you must be articulate when reviewing your case. If you stumble, the prosecutor sees you as weak.

 Tony Avendorph retired in 2009 after 40 years in law enforcement, serving with the Illinois Department of Corrections, the Los Angeles (Calif) County Sheriff's Department, and the Prince George's County (Md.) Police Department.

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