A Missing Incident Report

Suppose you interview a victim of a crime who decides not to press charges. Should you file a report?

YES. You can file an incident report even if there’s no arrest – and you should.

A recent story about a victim of sexual harassment is a good illustration of the importance of documenting everything – and saving those reports in case they’re needed later.

In November 2015, Jodi Grunvold – a principal in Reeds Spring, Connecticut – called the Stone County Sheriff’s Department to report suggestive behavior from Superintendent Michael Mason.

She did not press charges, but she wanted the report on file in case she pursued legal remedies later. There’s a good reason why: Sometimes victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault are asked why they didn’t tell anyone about the problem at the time it happened. Having an official record of a talk with a police officer can make a huge difference for the victim later on.

Eventually Grunvold did file a lawsuit, and the Title IX coordinator learned that other employees had made similar charges. The case was eventually settled, and Grunvold received $500,000. Nevertheless the school district denied any wrongdoing, and Mason’s contract was renewed. Grunvold herself was required to resign. You can read more about the case at this link: http://sgfnow.co/2pv2Uio

Here’s where it gets complicated. The Springfield News-Leader decided to investigate the story and was able to get a copy of the incident report. But the official word from the agency is that no report was filed. Sheriff Doug Rader said that he had interviewed Grunvold – but no report was taken.

Eventually a report was found, but the reporting deputy was identified as an “Officer Smith,” not Doug Rader. The handwriting does not match Sheriff Rader’s handwriting.

Confusingly, the sheriff’s office continues to deny that any report was ever taken. Meanwhile, a petition against Superintendent Michael Mason is circulating in Reeds Spring.

Bottom line: Document everything you do. You never know when something that seems routine will turn into a news story. Careful record keeping will mean that your agency is always prepared if questions arise.

 

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