“Circumstances changing in reports”

I previously provided an overall assessment related to report writing titled “Failure to write a good report” as a reason we get in trouble [also posted on this site].  I wrote this comment:  There is a certain style or structure for these [K9] reports that should be presented to identify an order of events, information, thoughts and justifications that are articulated in a clear and chronological sequence.  

In reviewing a few reports recently, I noticed problems that I’ve also seen in the past with respect to “circumstances changing” over the course of an ongoing search but not updated or clarified within the report.  Specifically, the handler articulates the reasons to justify an initial deployment – but – as a search continues, the facts and circumstances change and the handler fails to record the changes accordingly.

You might be scratching your head wondering “What?!?!” so here’s two quick examples;

  1. Multiple suspects hide and a search begins.  One suspect is located and the handler articulates in the report the reasons for deploying the dog based on the facts and circumstances known to him at the time. The dog bites one suspect.  The search then continues, the team locates a second suspect in a different location and the handler does not articulate the reasons to deploy the dog a second time, relying on the same facts and circumstances that were used previously for the first suspect apprehension.  Was any additional information received or known prior to this second deployment?  Was the location the same? Was there more or less risk and danger involved at the new location?
  2. A yard-to-yard search begins and the dog is being sent each time into a yard to search with a command to bite a suspect if found.  The handler may write in the report the facts and circumstances that justify the use of the dog prior to the first search.  The search then continues, several yards are searched, and then the dog alerts to an inaccessible suspect in a shed. The door to the shed is opened and the dog is sent in to bite.  The same reasons offered at the first yard are implied – but not specifically written – for the last deployment that results in an apprehension.  But, did the same set of facts and circumstances apply exactly as before prior to the door being opened?

Conditions, circumstances, environment and risks can change from one search area to another search area.  The risk may increase or decrease.  If you are doing yard-to-yard searches, it’s not necessary to articulate the reasons you are deploying your dog before each yard – but you should be doing so in your mind.  If you do note the circumstances at the first yard and circumstances change later at another yard – they should be addressed.  You might even consider not writing about the specific reasons you are using the dog initially – other than searching for an outstanding suspect – until the exact location of an imminent or actual apprehension occurs.

How could this get you in trouble?  Your report documents your thoughts as well as the facts and circumstances.  What applies in one situation might not apply in the next – and it becomes plainly obvious when the report is more thoroughly reviewed later.  If you originally justified the deployment of your dog based on one set of facts and circumstances – but those facts and circumstances change later – you must write it as it happened and in the sequence it was observed, believed and encountered.  I encourage you to review some of your past reports to make sure you are documenting the facts and circumstances sequentially.

Take care, be safe and make every day a training day…

Bill Lewis II

This “Reason” was originally shared on January 27, 2014