Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How accurate should a report be?

Just how accurate should a report of a traffic stop be?

I'll give you the lawyer's answer. "It depends."

Most traffic stops probably don't require any report at all, especially if they don't involve a ticket. Even if a ticket is issued, a separate report is likely not needed. All the information needed to prosecute the case can be recorded right on the citation. If there is something extra worth documenting, then a report might be written.

Are there certain events that require a report? And that require mention in a report? Or should require a report. Let me see if I can think of a few.

1. Male occupants of a car are searched. They are not only patted down for weapons, but the contents of their pockets are removed and placed on the hood or trunk of their vehicle. Is this to be included in a report?

2. A female occupant of a car is searched. And searched by a male officer. Does McHenry County Sheriff's Department require a female deputy to be called to search a female occupant, or are male deputies allowed to search a feeling, including feeling her breasts to determine whether an object might be hidden in a brassiere? Wouldn't such a search require reporting?

3. If a woman's purse is dumped out on the seat of a car, does this constitute a search, absent permission to examine the contents? And should it be reported?

4. If the vehicle is searched, how is consent gained and documented? Can the occupants be required or induced or "motivated" to consent to a search?

5. If a gun is drawn at any time on occupants of a car, such as when the vehicle is stopped, shouldn't the report mention this?

6. If a deputy screams profanities at the occupants of the car in an attempt to control them, should this be included in a report? Comments like, "Put your f*cking hands up" and "Get the f*ck back in the car."

A supervisor reading a report with none of these events mentioned might assume that none happened, since none is mentioned. How can a supervisor supervise, if he doesn't know what happened? Therefore, it is incumbent on the supervisor to know what happened.

If two or three deputies are at the scene of a traffic stop that involves these events, each should have to write a report describing what he saw. And they shouldn't all be allowed to sit around the same table, compare notes and write reports that look like Beethoven's Unfinished Symphony.

If Deputy A writes that he saw (male) Deputy B search a female occupant of a car, including feeling her breasts to find any hidden weapons, and Deputy B fails to mention such a search in his report, shouldn't a supervisor be asking a lot of questions?

How often in McHenry County do things like this happen?

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