Whenever an officer conducts an investigation, the officer has the right to speak at sentencing and to propose his or her own recommendation to the case. RCW 9.94a.500 provides that at sentencing: “The court shall …allow arguments from the prosecutor, the defense counsel…and an investigative law enforcement officer as to the sentence to be imposed.”
When officers are involved in shootings or other critical incident matters, their actions are going to be examined by everyone from the department to the prosecutor, defense attorneys, civil attorneys, the press and the public. Aside from prosecuting the suspect, these cases are typically looked at for the civil or criminal liability (both from the state and federal government) and departmental discipline against the officer. The investigation record may be made public for anyone to read and review. Handling these cases correctly are critical to protect the officer’s interests.
When an incident occurs, the officer should always be calling an attorney REGARDLESS of whether the matter appears to be “open and shut.” You have the right to an attorney, your contract anticipates it, and your dues pay for it. Use that right and call.
While this sheet is far too brief for substantial details and reasons, and each case is different, in general, we recommend taking the following actions:
1) Call your guild representative immediately.
2) Communicate only critical information to preserve life or capture a suspect. If possible, communicate this through your guild representative or have your supervisor “order” you to communicate the information. Otherwise do not speak to your guild representative without talking to an attorney first. (Despite Washington law, your “confidential statements” to your guild/peer support may be ordered disclosed by a court.
3) Contact us at the following numbers. We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Don’t wait to submit a Legal Defense Plan application. We do that for you.
Western Washington: 360-524-2009
Eastern Washington: 509-423-7770
4) While at the scene, your gear and firearm will likely be taken, and you may be photographed. Remember, neutral pose and appearance.
5) We will speak to you initially on the phone and arrange to meet you and the investigators. We will assist you in deciding if it’s even appropriate for you to provide a statement. If we decide it is, we’ll help you prepare that statement so it fully explains your position, and is presented in a way that protects your interests.
6) We will assist throughout the investigation, through any IA investigation, through departmental reviews, and further if necessary.
7) We will communicate on your behalf to the department, prosecutor, court, and other parties, like the press, if necessary.
It’s always helpful if the guild representative can forward to us the current version of the departmental policies and latest contract after an OIS. We review them to determine if the officer was in compliance with policy before a decision is made on interviews.