Yes, they do! Two recent news stories testify to their importance.
On January 14 an Arizona police officer shot an accused car thief named Manuel Longoria, who later died. The circumstances are confusing. A supervisor at the scene had ordered her deputies to use “less lethal” bean bag rounds at the scene. Police thought Longoria was armed, but no weapon was ever found. The video cam in the deputy’s car is inconclusive. A bystander’s cell phone video seems to show that Longoria was putting his hands up just before a deputy fired two rounds.
Here’s where the police report becomes important: According to sources who have read it, there’s no documentation about exactly what Longoria was doing right before the shooting. Did his actions make the deputies think he was reaching for a weapon? The report is inconclusive.
Both the Pinal County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI are investigating the shooting.
You can read more about the case at http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/ariz-reports-don-suspect-killed-hands-article-1.1611742#ixzz2tbCnM1Y9.
A second story about a problematic police report comes out of New York City. Last May a Guatemalan immigrant named Deisy Garcia filed a police report in Spanish warning that her husband was going to kill her. The NYPD failed to translate her report. There was another domestic violence report in November – again in Spanish, and again not translated. The NYPD did not investigate, and no arrest was made.
In January the husband, Miguel Mejia-Ramos, killed both Garcia and her two daughters. (The reason? He didn’t have car seats for them.) You can read more about this sad story at this link: http://nyp.st/1gKGQWR
It’s important to note that both stories are incomplete, and further developments may bring dramatic changes in our understanding of what happened to Manuel Longoria and Deisy Garcia. The point is not to judge the agencies or officers that handled this cases.
Here’s what we know for certain: Any police report can come to national attention. You can never predict when a report you’ve written may find its way into the public spotlight. Yes, police reports matter.