What is a Critical Incident?
Although your work is designed to “expect the unexpected,” a critical incident is usually an unscheduled, unplanned, and highly significant event that can often result in an injury – up to and including a fatality of an officer, suspect, arrested inmate, or a previously uninvolved civilian.
In order to be prepared if such an incident does occur, officers need to know exactly who to contact, what your rights are and that all processes are properly followed.
What to do if you are involved in a critical incident?
- Stabilize the scene – take custody of violent offenders if needed.
- Check the Officer(s) involved: Are there injuries? Summon medical assistance as needed. What is the mental state of the officer? Most important: Reassure the officer that help is coming.
- Beyond information given for officer’s safety, officers do not discuss the details of the incident with anyone.
- Try to get the involved officer(s) to a place away from the incident, and from the public, and to a place of quiet.
- Notify your command staff, if dispatch has not already done so.
- Call your department steward or FOPLC Business Agent immediately.(517) 679-5090
- Anyone who asks the officer “What happened” now becomes a res gestae witness, and can be ordered to talk.
- Officers are protected by the Fifth Amendment and must invoke the right to remain silent until they have spoken to an attorney.
STAY WITH THE OFFICER – ALWAYS – until FOPLC representation arrives, or the matter is resolved via the telephone by the FOPLC. We represent the officer – not the scene of the critical incident. The officer’s representation is our most important – and only – duty.
Our obligation, in the immediate moments and hours after the critical incident, is to ensure that the officer is released from duty as soon as possible – gets medical or emotional help as soon as possible – and avoids spontaneous remarks that can be easily misunderstood or misinterpreted by the investigating agencies.
Communications by Cell Phones and Tablets
- If the Employer-Department owns the phone and pays the monthly subscription, all contents are accessible without a search warrant.
- If the union steward owns the cell phone or tablet, there is a right of private ownership. Again, however, there is no privilege to the contents of the device – they can be subpoenaed by either State or Federal prosecutors.