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Eight Things a Chief Needs to Know About Investigations
Written by J.L. Sumpter
Few things are
more damaging to a department than a chief not knowing the progress of major,
or attention-grabbing, investigations. The chief must know what goes into these
investigations and provide the needed training and equipment for a successful
resolution. Communicating the progress and goals are also very important,
especially to the community and the officers within the department.
Calabrese of the Petoskey, Mich. Public Safety has narrowed down what is
believed to be the eight most important things a chief must know about
investigations. Director Calabrese has 29 years of law enforcement experience,
having served with the Detroit Police Department and the Eastpointe Police
Department before taking the Director’s job in Petoskey.
Experience and Training
The chief should
have some practical experience investigating cases. Obviously a chief who has
performed these duties will have some insight on how to assist detectives in
their investigations. Whether a move through the ranks involved time in the
detective bureau or not, a chief should have some investigative
experience makes a chief aware of what officers go through when dealing with
certain crimes. This experience helps provide officers with useable insight. Respect
is gained when the chief has knowledge of the law, procedures, and the energy
going into an investigation.
Priority of Resolution
The chief should
know the investigative priorities of the community as well as the department. Serious,
high-profile cases need immediate resources devoted to them. However, sometimes
less serious crimes may be of great interest to the community. Political and
media related issues can be avoided by a chief who recognizes that sometimes
devoting time to less serious crimes are important and making sure these cases
are investigated promptly and thoroughly.
cases get the most attention, it is sometimes those smaller investigations that
can have the same impact on the community. The community wants to feel safe and
secure, they want to know their chief is providing the best services possible.
Of course, a homicide investigation deserves greater attention than a rash of
larcenies from motor vehicles, but the feeling of safety could be the same. A
chief should prioritize case load with urgency in mind, while preparing to back
up his decision if the community wants answers.
Up-To-Date Training and Equipment
The chief should
be aware of current techniques and technology that may be helpful in conducting
effective investigations. The chief needs to provide the most current training
for detectives and provide modern equipment to deal with the ever-changing
crimes we now see on a regular basis (phones, computers, DNA,). The current
state of the law as it pertains to investigations….such as the new video
interrogation law in many states.
With the onset
of Internet and other computer related crimes, comes a challenge. A chief who
is future driven knows to prepare and train officers on the many different
investigative techniques. She must also
plan current and future budgets for the training and equipment needed to combat
these changes in crime.
Be Aware of
The chief should
monitor the status of all important cases, making sure that he/she is providing
the necessary resources to the investigation. The chief needs to know all new
information related to investigations, so that they are not caught off-guard by
a reporter, local politician, or victim of a crime. Chiefs
need to be on the lookout for investigators who may fall victim to the “halo
effect” or have bias or prejudice toward the investigation.
Part of knowing
the progress is the relationship he has with his officers. Having an open,
trusting relationship with officers and investigators is very important for a
chief. An “I am better than you” or “I want to find everything you did wrong”
attitude does not work well in high-profile investigations.
butting of heads digs the heels in and attention is taken from what really
needs to be done. An investigator constantly looking over his shoulder in worry
of making a mistake does nothing for the investigation. Mistakes are made and
not every “i” will be dotted or “t” crossed, so having a trusting relationship
with officers helps combat these issues.
Chiefs should be
aware of the importance of the interaction between the local prosecutor and
investigators, and the key role prosecutors play in the successful investigation
and prosecution of a case. Working together with the prosecutor from the
beginning of a case can make future litigation go more smoothly. Prosecutors
can add valuable insight into what needs to be done to put together a court-ready
Having solid relationships
at each level is very helpful to all involved. This helps provide insight into
the role each level plays in the investigation. The compounding experience they
bring to the table can do wonders for each level of litigation.
of Available Resources
are needed and what resources are available? Do you need to request help from
neighboring departments for personnel, expertise, or jurisdiction? Using state
police, federal agencies, and even non-law enforcement resources can aid
investigators in certain cases.
resources is very important especially in smaller communities. Having open
communication with agencies is a key factor in knowing what is out there. This
is done with periodic meetings or visits. Keep in mind, resources are not only
tangible tools, but trained or gifted officers as well.
Also, the chief
needs to know the current and past crime trends and how those crimes affect the
community. Again, prioritizing and providing sufficient resources are
important to dealing with emerging crime trends.
from Every Division
know the importance of uniform patrol officers in investigating cases. By
empowering the initial responding officers to conduct as thorough an
investigation prior to involvement by detectives, cases can be initiated in the
proper way. Patrol officers have great insight into things going on in
their patrol areas, and can provide valuable information into the
investigation. Also, supplementing detectives with uniformed officers can be
helpful. There are many functions uniform officers can provide that can prove
vital in the investigation.
officers at the uniform level to initiate the investigation is a twofold
benefit. It gives officers experience and provides detectives another set of
eyes. Along these same lines, knowing the department is a key attribute to a
successful investigation. The strength of one officer may not be what is needed
for a certain type of investigation. Placing officers in investigations that
best utilize their strengths is important for a chief.
to Conduct an Initial Investigation
know the importance of an initial investigation to a successful conclusion. A
chief must assure all officers under their command have the necessary tools and
training to get the case started properly.
To accomplish this, each officer must possess skills such as evidence
collection, interviewing and interrogation, and report writing. A chief has
failed if these basic skills are not provided.
training works wonders for confidence, using the experience of the chief or
other seasoned officers is important. An investigator going into his/her first
homicide is like jumping into a patrol car for the first time. He/she has the
training, but his/her experience is lacking.
A chief without
insight into his officer’s investigations is a crucial mistake. This doesn’t
mean to simply know the details, but have up-to-date knowledge on law and
investigation techniques. If a high-priority case presents itself, a chief must
step back and take a look from the outside in, then develop a game plan to
Major cases do
not give a chief an opportunity to nitpick an officer’s decisions but to be
there for advice and assistance when needed. Major criminal investigations
involve a team, both within the department and sometimes outside agencies. Like
a football coach, he/she uses the strengths of his/her team to win the game
J.L. Sumpter is a detective/sergeant with 18 years of experience at the Emmet County Sheriff's Office. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in Law and Order, Jun 2014
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