The Law Firm of Tom B. Kirkbride, P.C. is ready to support and defend those public safety officers who have been involved in an deadly force encounter, an officer involves shooting (OIS), or defending your law enforcement certification and professional ability to work in the field of law enforcement or corrections in all matters before the Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training Council (P.O.S.T) Attorney Tom B. Kirkbride has been a P.O.S.T. certified peace officer since 1989, a federal agent, and a law enforcement supervisor, manager, executive and is uniquely qualified to represent you in all matters before the Georgia P.O.S.T. Council.
Though few officers will be directly involved in a hostile shooting situation during their careers, many more may experience the impact of one; the effects of such events touch not only the officer involved, but the department and the community as well. Because of the gravity of officer-involved shootings or deadly force encounters, it is vitally important to ensure that the agency and its officers are prepared in advance for such an event.
Officers should be familiar not only with agency policies and procedures, but with their individual rights, including the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights and departmental rights and privileges that may be conferred. It is also important that officers understand the differences between criminal and administrative investigations and their rights during each of these processes. THIS INCLUDES HAVING A LAWYER WHO REPRESENTS YOUR BEST INTRESTS.
Involved officer responsibilities
The initial responses of involved officers at the scene, and the steps taken, and decisions made thereafter by first responders, supervisors, and investigative personnel, often determine whether an accurate and complete investigation occurs. As such, it is critical to have protocols in place that agencies can immediately activate should an OIS, other deadly force, or in-custody death incident occur.
Despite the incredibly stressful nature of an officer-involved shooting event, it is important for officers involved to take initial steps to protect their safety and the safety of others, preserve evidence, and when possible, to perform those actions that will help the investigation of the incident. If the officer is physically capable and circumstances permit, there are (4) four areas of concern which require immediate attention after the confrontation has ended.
1. Welfare of the officers and others at the scene
The safety and well-being of the involved officer(s) and innocent bystanders is the first priority. On- scene personnel should ensure that the subject is not a threat, to include disarming, handcuffing, or otherwise securing the person. An officer should never assume that because a subject has been shot or otherwise incapacitated, he or she is unable to take aggressive action. Officers should render medical aid as circumstances allow and to the degree reasonably possible, pending the arrival of trained medical personnel. Officers should handcuff all suspects, unless doing so would hinder the performing of emergency life-saving activities; in this event, an armed officer must be present at all times. Officers must secure in place all firearms and other weapons in the vicinity. If an officer must physically secure a weapon, its exact position should be marked. Officers must secure in place all firearms and other weapons in the vicinity, marking their exact positions.
If the primary officer has not already done so, on-scene personnel should summon emergency service providers, regardless of whether or not any officer or subject is injured. Injuries may not always be apparent, and the rush of adrenaline under these circumstances can mask them. Additionally, the stress of such an incident creates severe elevations in blood pressure, pulse rate, respiration, and body temperature, all of which can be dangerous.
2. Apprehension of suspects
In general, it is better for the officer to remain at the incident scene than leave it to pursue suspects, unless the officer can apprehend the subject readily. Even if the officer was not injured, actions such as foot pursuits are taxing and inherently dangerous, especially when compounded by the stress of the incident. By remaining at the scene, the officer can summon backup, await emergency medical assistance, assist the injured, protect evidence, and identify witnesses. Instead of pursuing the subject, the officer should provide the agency’s communication center with information on any subject or suspicious persons who may have left the area, including their physical description, mode and direction of travel, and whether they were armed.
3. Preservation of evidence and protection of the incident scene
After an incident, many, if not most officers, will experience a period of mental confusion and disorientation. Under such conditions, it is often unreasonable to expect an officer to perform all but the most essential of duties required. Therefore, to the degree reasonably possible and appropriate, the officer should attempt to focus on just a few key matters. For example, he or she should note immediate surroundings and conditions, such as lighting; persons and vehicles present or recently departed from the scene; potential witnesses, suspects, or accomplices; and other factors. When possible, the involved officer should protect the scene from incursion by bystanders and secure in place or mentally note items of evidentiary value. The involved officer should also be aware of emergency medical personnel and firefighters as they arrive, as they who may unknowingly move or even inadvertently destroy evidence while performing their duties.
Principal among evidentiary items are firearms. The officer should ensure the safety and securing of his or her firearm until investigators examine it. The firearm should not be moved if dropped, nor removed if holstered, nor opened, reloaded, or tampered with in any manner. Ideally, officers should ensure that all weapons and expended cartridge casings remain in place undisturbed.
4. Identification of witnesses
When possible, the officer should identify potential eyewitnesses, separate them, and ask them to re- main present to provide a brief statement. If a witness wishes to leave, the officer should obtain contact information for future communications, or provide their supervisor’s contact information and request that they contact him or her. If capable of doing so, assisting officers may use photographic or video recordings to document any onlookers present for possible future identification and questioning, should they leave the incident scene.
Request Medical Evaluation and Call YOUR ATTORNEY
An officer should provide a “thumb-nail” outline of what happened to responding officers and investigators and should request to be medically evaluated before any formal interview is given. You should contact you’re your attorney before giving a formal interview and this call should be made as soon as the scene has been secured and or you have been transported for medical evaluation. Cooperate with medical providers, tell them what you were feeling, what you experienced, did you suffer from auditory exclusion, tunnel vision, was your heart racing, did you experience involuntary urination, were you scared? All of these things are NORMAL responses and noting to be ashamed of. This will also give you time to think, to provide separation from the traumatic event, and allow you attorney to meet with you.
Do Not Go Through This Alone!
Attorney Tom Kirkbride and his team of law enforcement professional are here for you! In most cases, the officer will be cleared and returned to duty after the case is No Billed by your local Grand Jury and a fitness of duty evaluation has been made. Participate in provided EAP and mental health counseling. You have experienced a traumatic event, let out team be there for you, we you were there for our community. Contact the Law Firm of Tom B. Kirkbride, P.C. to discuss your P.O.S.T. case. Before Tom became an attorney, he walked a beat, he kicked in doors, he served high-risk narcotics warrants, he has been there and done that. Let his experienced team be there for you. Call today 678-719-0331. There is also an emergency response number monitored 24/7 that will have an attorney to you quickly, that number is (678) 719-0331 ext. 4. Please put it in your smart phone for reference for you or another officer.