Cleaning Out My Files (And Why You Shouldn't)

Insight gleaned about how and why a suspect committed his crime might put him back on your radar-even aid in a subsequent trial-should he adhere to a unique M.O.

Author Dean Scoville Headshot

The sheer volume of things falling on law enforcement's radar precludes the possibility of myself or anyone else doing justice to them. So when my cup runneth over, I occasionally offer up a potpourri of food for thought.

Think Before You Toss

While interviewing a sergeant for a forthcoming "Shots Fired" feature for, I was advised that as the statute of limitations had expired on the incident, all evidentiary material associated with it had been disposed of by his agency.

Was I disappointed? Yeah. But more than that I thought: What a waste.

Look, statutes of limitations are great reasons to retain crime scene evidence and investigations; they are lousy reasons to destroy them.

Is it worth the man-hours expended to put some SOB behind bars for an OIS incident? Absolutely.

But might there be some ancillary benefits to all that legwork?

I think so.

OIS investigations avail themselves to all manner of investigative insight and training lessons.

Insight gleaned about how and why a suspect committed his crime might put him back on your radar-even aid in a subsequent trial-should he adhere to a unique M.O. Being creatures of habit, suspects might make try to elude capture on subsequent attempts just as they had the first; they may even call upon the same people.

And OIS investigations almost invariably offer officer safety lessons, be they unique to the suspect, or of general training value. Unfortunately, training personnel don't always get a chance to review such files. Invaluable statements from suspects as to how they evaluate officers' actions might get lost in the administrative shuffle. There are any number of other reasons to reconsider tossing such documents, including their value in documenting everything from why an employee might end up suffering longterm physical or emotional trauma and substantiating why a prisoner shouldn't be granted parole.

True, warehousing such information can be a concern. But much of this stuff can be converted to PDFs, disk recordings, etc., and computer data storage isn't as formidable an issue as it was five years ago.

So, if you've ever been actively involved in a serious force incident, protracted investigation, an incident wherein lessons were learned or amply illustrated, then please give some consideration to asking that you be notified before all that work gets round-filed.

GPS Systems Save Cop Lives

God's gift to martinets and micromanagers can also be helpful to the beat cop.

When a Riverside officer was recently shot and killed, a GPS system was used to locate the position of his patrol car. GPS systems can also help locate patrol units when officers are momentarily confused about their current location such as in the immediate aftermath of a recent East Los Angeles shooting of a rookie patrol deputy. Still, it's better if you always let your dispatch know exactly where you're at.

A PSA I'd Like to See

I'm not exactly wild about people committing suicide, and feel for the maid who discovers the guy that checked in the day before only to check himself out with a shotgun blast. At best, they may have taken care of their business in the shower stall.

But I'm downright resentful when suicides selfishly ignore the possible harm that they stand to cause others, and who put others in the role of unwitting accomplices, such as railway engineers and conductors. I remember talking with some poor guy who'd run over three separate suicides on the tracks in as many years. He appeared to be at the end of his own rope.

I know some will think me nuts in wishing that someone would address such collateral damage in the hopes of deterring others from such acts. But the fact that many suicides do take time to warm others away from the sight of their bodies or even contaminated environments tells me that many people hellbent on offing themselves at least give some thought to the living (while I'm not condoning such sites, I'd be remiss in not pointing out that Web pages showing viewers how to properly effect chemical suicides also illustrate how to put up warning for citizens and EMS personnel-and 90 percent of the time suicides do).

It'd be great if we could have the opportunity to dissuade people from committing suicide. But rather than put our collective heads in the ground, might we at least ask them to consider what their acts might mean for innocents? It might even make some think twice before doing it at all...

Accountability for Parole Boards

Cops are continuing to get killed by parolees that should never have been released in the first place. So why not hold parole board members accountable the first time some asshole parole that he or she had signed off on commits another horrible offense.

To that end, the governor of Massachusetts accepted the resignation of five state parole board members who'd voted to release a career criminal, only to see that man subsequently shoot and kill a police officer.

Gov. Deval Patrick wasn't done there. He also accepted the resignation of the executive director of the board and said he would seek to remove other officials from the agency. Patrick explained that while Dominic Cinelli bore responsibility for shooting Woburn police officer John Maguire, the parole board did not do all it could to protect public safety. Considering the guy had been released while serving THREE life sentences, I'd say, yeah.

"Genius" in the Wile E. Coyote Sense

(Thanks to Tim Dees for this one.)

Maybe They Didn't Need Backup Afterall

We all know you can't be of assistance if you don't get there and that's why we drive so fast to backup calls...

...but it's really bad when you can't be of assistance when you do get there.

That's pretty much the case when one Las Vegas cop ran over another recently. Mad Max had been responding to a backup request on a t-stop involving a wrong-way bicyclist. Upon arriving, he jumped the curb, sideswiped the first officer's car and the bicyclist, then ran over the officer that'd requested him.

As bad as that is, our badged speed bump may have fared better than the poor Turnwater, Wash., officer who was attacked by a Thurston County Sheriff's Office K-9. Apparently some miscommunications came into play which resulted in the dog chomping on the Thurston cop in the groin. He ended up driving himself to the hospital where he was treated for serious injuries.

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