First and foremost is use common sense virtually everyday you go out in the field to tackle crime. A lot of officers tend to allow things to become routine during their tour of duty and what is surprisingly interesting is they truly believe everything is going to be okay and they can handle whatever situation which may arise. Well, truth be told it is those officers who seem to end up in the worst of the worst situations ever to be told. I think the reason is obvious when later the officer tells how things unraveled it all becomes so clear to the officer. When and if the day comes where you’re involved in an officer involved shooting you will then learn there is a lot more to the equation than first thought as reality will set in and you will realize what is being looked at in the end.
In order to survive the aftermath of a shooting each officer should take it upon themselves to further educate themselves on what may transpire. It is equally important to understand your department will undoubtedly be investigating the shooting along with several other agencies. Please do not get me wrong here, I am not saying your department will not back you up but what I am saying is you should prepare yourself for when and if it occurs. Meaning, have you familiarized yourself with your departments policy as it relates to being involved in a shooting? If not, it is highly suggested because you will be questioned as to what led up to the shooting etc… Now then, if you’re involved in a shooting and you have a body camera and or dash cam in your unit my suggestion is you be very careful of what you say. I realize in the spur of the moment you may not even realize what you’re saying but remember silence is golden. Many officers find themselves in a bit of hot water when they say the most mundane things which may be called into question.
When your supervisor arrives he/she will ask you to give them a brief statement of what occurred which is suppose to include any outstanding suspects, their description, vehicle description and or direction of travel. Immediately thereafter, once the scene is secured you will be ordered to remove your gun belt which you will hand over to your supervisor. Do not be alarmed, this protocol. Thereafter, you will be transported to your station and sat in a room for perhaps a long period. In the meantime, most departments will ask you who you would like contacted such as a buddy cop, union representative or lawyer. You definitely should ask for a lawyer because soon enough your departments professional standards bureau will arrive and speak to you. A lot of times, there is a process in where your department will do what is called a “charting” of all your equipment, uniform along with pictures etc…
Once you’re in the interview room, keep in mind there most likely will be a district attorney outside monitoring the interview along with administration personnel. So, whatever you say will not only be heard but audio and video recorded as well. Again, this is not to alarm you it is merely surviving the officer involved shooting. Remember, all departments are different, however, the process is basically the same, so do not be afraid to speak with your lawyer when and if necessary outside of the presence of the investigating body. Oh, and in case you forgot they will take a blood sample from you and you cannot refuse, so whatever is in your blood stream the investigating body will find out. I am not suggesting they will find anything like drugs or alcohol but I just thought you should be aware of it. Of course, if the shooting is justified then really have no worries other than everybody and their brother critiquing what occurred. Keep in mind, you will never satisfy everyone as there will always be someone who will say you should have done something different or they would have handled it differently.
This can take a toll on an officer and heighten the stress level, no matter how many years of service you may have. I realize this article is generic in form and there is much more to learn but at least it gives you some food for thought. My heart goes out to every police officer who may be involved in a shooting but surviving the shooting has just as much to do with what happens after the shooting as well. Most departments will place you on administrative leave with pay for a few days and afterward will offer you to seek counseling if you want to. My suggestion, is for you to go to the counseling sessions as you may learn more than you think. Is counseling for everyone? No, it is not and in fact most would rather not, however, I believe it is healthy for the heart. If you need more time off do not hesitate to ask for it as time certainly heals. Please be safe and if you have any questions please email me a note and I will get back to you asap.