An article in today’s Lakeland Ledger illustrates the importance of promptly filing a thorough police report, even if you’re convinced no crime has happened. A grand jury is investigating a Lakeland police officer who did not file a timely report about a domestic disturbance. Complicating the investigation are conflicting accounts from a neighbor and another officer about what happened at the scene. The issue is homicide.
The story began at 5 a.m. on October 12, when four officers responded to a domestic disturbance at the home of Virginia Varnum and Monday Demarsh. According to Officer Edwin Lett, Virginia Varnum insisted that she hadn’t called the police and didn’t need their help.
But a neighbor, Victoria Elizabeth May, insists that Varnum had pleaded for help and was terrified of her boyfriend. And May insists she told police about those fears and begged them to jail the boyfriend.
Nevertheless, the officers left without filing any charges. On November 5, after Varnum’s body was found in a wooded area, Demarsh was charged with homicide.
Officer Jett’s report presents problems for the grand jury. Why did he wait two weeks to file his report? (It was written after Varnum was reported missing.) And why does he quote neighbor May as saying “these things happen all the time,” with no mention of her fears for Varnum?
And there’s conflicting testimony from a fifth officer, Kevin Fullenkamp, who also went to the home and talked to Varnum. He claims she told him she was “a little scared that [Demarsh] might do something.”But Fullenkamp didn’t file a report and didn’t talk to the other officers about Varnum’s fears.
Now Officer Lett is facing both a grand jury and an internal affairs investigation.
Complete, thorough, accurate, prompt: Every officer is familiar with those guidelines for writing a report. It’s not just that you want to write a professional report: Your career or a human life can be at stake.