Principal Officers - Force Science
Great article from Force Science on Principal Officers
TAPE RECORDING. "We will never allow for an officer's voluntary interview to be tape recorded," Hoag wrote. "It is not uncommon for an officer to break down and cry" during an interview or to "express raw anger" that a suspect forced him to use lethal force. "In many states as soon as the investigation is complete it becomes a public record. In Oregon a videotape of an officer crying during an OIS interview got posted on YouTube.
"No officer who has been through an OIS and then relives it during an interview should have to have [his] emotions recorded for the world to view. The officer's family should not be subject to that as it is not uncommon for an officer's children to be...taunted about their parent being a killer.
"A skilled investigator can prepare a detailed report of what the officer said during the interview, and the officer can review and approve it. We owe officers who have been through an OIS the right to keep their emotions private."
WALK-THROUGH. Hoag favors a "walk-through with the [involved] officer, preferably under the lighting conditions that existed at the time the OIS occurred," he said. But "investigators do not accompany us" because "it is very common for an officer to have perceptual auditory, visual, or memory distortions after an OIS." Consequently, "we would not want the officer to be giving a statement before, during, or right after the walk-through." Aided by the walk-through as a stimulus, the officer should have time to "reflect on what occurred" without investigative pressure and questioning.
RECOVERY TIME. As to when an interview should be conducted, Hoag pointed out that "right after an OIS the officer is 'pumped up' for a period of time. The officer's mind is racing. It is hard to slow the officer down to get a fully detailed statement. Then at some point the adrenalin rush wears off and the officer feels like he or she has been run over by a steamroller. All that officer wants to do is to go home, and that can cause the officer's answers to questions to be shorter than they might otherwise be.
"[A] 'cognitive interview,' which we believe produces the best [statement], takes a lot of time and requires the officer's full cooperation and exhaustive participation. It should not be undertaken without the officer being well rested.... [W]aiting to conduct the interview for 48 hours seems to be a reasonable and prudent practice.... [I]n one case, based on [the] officer's condition, an agency [was persuaded] to wait 2 weeks to conduct its interview."
MEDICAL CHECK. "We suggest that an officer be given a medical exam with documentation of the officer's vital signs," Hoag wrote. "Many times they are highly or even dangerously elevated."
PEER SUPPORT. Unless conversation with a peer support officer is protected by a confidentiality statute, statements made by an officer in that context "would be admissible in court," Hoag pointed out. With that in mind, "officers should be instructed not to discuss the incident with peer support officers until the investigations and any civil litigation are over."
DEBRIEFING. In addition to a mandated, confidential visit with a police psychologist to debrief the incident and receive information about potential PTSD symptoms, Hoag recommended that OIS survivors be required to "go to the range and qualify before going back out on the street." He explained: "I want the officers to be able to say to themselves that they are ready to use deadly force again, if necessary."
CONFERRING. In a section of his letter sure to raise the hackles of police critics, Hoag wrote favorably of allowing officers to confer among themselves in preparing statements about OISs that involved multiple officers. "In the United Kingdom officers regularly confer before they give statements" and this is duly noted, he stated. He cited a Force Science study that found that conferring resulted in "better interviews afterwards with more details and fewer mistakes."
In addressing these and other recommendations to Jonathan Smith, chief of the Civil Rights Division's Special Litigation Section, and Jenny Durkan, US Attorney for the Western District of Washington State, who signed the directive to Seattle, Hoag said he hoped his suggestions would be "of some assistance" and offered to discuss them in greater detail. At this writing, he is awaiting a response.