In a previous post I talked about how a cop is made and began listing 5 categories in which a probationer is graded on each night during field training. This post continues with the last 5 categories.
6. Patrol Tactics- This area of law enforcement is one in which cops are too deficient in. I am grateful to have been trained in an agency that put a premium on teaching new cops sound, tactical skills. I can think of two cops that have taught me skills which may have saved my life, but I will never have known it. Patrol tactics is about not giving a person the opportunity to take advantage of the situation. It is about having cognitive, multi-tasking abilities that enable you to watch a driver on a traffic stop, listen to radio traffic in the background, ask questions of the driver, process the information the driver is giving, look at items inside the vehicle and watch the two people that just stepped outside of their house check out your traffic stop. This is such an enormous and critical area of copping. It needs to be done well.
7. Criminal Statutes and Ordinances, Procedural Criminal Law, and Courtroom Protocols- Law enforcement is similar to a chess game. The chess player who has a thorough understanding of the rules and can see many steps ahead of the game will ultimately be the winner. The better a cop knows the rules the better he can play the game. Many times it feels like a game as we work within the boundaries of judges who make case law. The rules are constantly changing. Cops need to be aware of the elements of a crime that are written into state statute and obtain the evidence of those elements during case building, interviews and crime scene processing.
8. Information Processing and Report Writing- A lion’s share of law enforcement is taking information people give and putting it through the filter of truth. Two people will give their versions of what happened on a call and somewhere in between will lie the truth. Our job is to dig deep through specific questioning to find out what that truth is. Often times these interviews become like branches on an ever expanding tree. A simple assault may result in needing to get statements from 5 different people. Reports need to be detailed, accurate and devoid of the cops opinions. They need to obtain the elements of the crime for which the suspect is charged and paint an accurate picture of observations that were made by the cop.
9. Problem Solving and Decision Making- Being a cop means being a lawyer, psychologist and referee with a gun and a badge. People call 911 with messed up conflicts and are looking to the cop to provide a solution. Often times that solution may require multiple options or thinking outside the box. Some of these decisions must be made in seconds and others are made over the course of hours and days.
10. Traffic Enforcement and Crash Scene Management- This is where the law-abiding citizen has the most contact with law enforcement. Traffic stops require several of the above mentioned skills. Good cops will be able to legally expand the scope of a stop from a speeding ticket to a felony level arrest. Traffic stops take drunk drivers off the road, take felons with warrants to jail and solve open criminal cases. I stopped a suspicious vehicle one night that resulted in a burglary being solved in a jurisdiction 20 miles from me. Again, this skill is developed through training and experience. Crash Scene Management involves directing traffic, providing medical care to injured people, obtaining driver’s licenses and insurance information, taking pictures of the scene, getting witness statements, making landing zones for air ambulances and being a calm and controlled voice in the midst of chaos.
These ten areas hopefully give the reader a more insightful look into the world of law enforcement. Whenever you may see a cop on a traffic stop, sitting at a gas station drinking coffee or driving by you at 100 miles per hour; there are many more things going on than meets the eye.