Provide ALL the Evidence

Criminal justice professional Gordon Graham has a free online service – a brief weekly videotaped tip for anyone who works in law enforcement. (You can subscribe, free, at Graham is a leader in the public safety field – those tips are well worth listening to.

In the weekly tip I’m thinking about, Graham made an important point about something you probably heard again and again in your training program: Reports have to be thorough.

That sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? No need to belabor the point. But Graham brought up a problem you may face a number of times in your career: What if there’s a piece of evidence that doesn’t support an arrest? Do you include it?

Graham gave the example of four witnesses who place a suspect in a black van – and one who says the van was blue. You arrest someone driving a black van. Do you omit that fifth witness who thought it was a blue van?

Graham urged officers to include that “blue van” statement even though it didn’t support the arrest. Fairness is vital to effective law enforcement. Your reports should include both the reasons for the arrest AND evidence that might free the suspect.

A thorough report shows that you are both honest and professional. That’s the kind of reputation you want, isn’t it?


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