“Failure to review K9 reports”

I read quite a few use reports involving the deployments of police dogs.  And, when I read a marginal report or a bad one, I question what type of procedures or policies are in place for a review of these reports before they are submitted.  I often learn there is no practice that requires a report to be reviewed before its official submission and most reviews occur after the report has been entered into Records.  To be clear – I’m addressing a review process “before” official submission – not a “supervisor’s review” afterward when copies may be forwarded by Records (after submission) to the handler’s assigned supervisor and/or K9 supervisor.

I also am of this opinion with respect to reports and their reviews;  a bad report that becomes an official submission by a handler is as much the fault of the reviewing supervisor as the handler and both should be held accountable for negative consequences.  There is truly no excuse for a bad report to be submitted.

In the “old days” – and perhaps even today – officers were required to submit their handwritten or computer-generated reports into an in-box on the Watch Commander’s desk upon completion or at the end of a shift. Then, the Watch Commander, or another supervisor working in that capacity, would read and “review” the report and sign it (or initial it) as an approval before sending it off to Records.  If the reviewer noticed some problems or had serious concerns that might need to be addressed prior to its official submission, and a delay would not cause any disruption, the officer would be contacted, perhaps questioned about the content, and then asked to rewrite or clarify an issue of concern if necessary.

“Effective authors understand that their written work should be reviewed by at least one person before final submission.  Reviewers read draft works carefully to ensure content is being communicated as intended by the author.”  -Force Concepts 

Reports involving apprehensions by police dogs – and any incident with a potential for liability – should be reviewed thoroughly before official submission.   These are reports that may be read later to determine if criminal charges will be filed, civil claims are filed or lawsuits initiated and the content could heavily determine the fate of those actions.   These are reports that expert witnesses may read later to help form an opinion about the reasonableness – or not – of the actions being documented.

I told my handlers to write a “draft report” on a few occasions if they were involved with an incident with a lot of details that wasn’t simply explained.  I recall writing a few myself where submission was delayed slightly so I could review more thoroughly later. Sometimes, handlers are stressed as a result of the incident and/or in a hurry to write the report before the end of shift or afterward and the ability to appropriately document and address all involved factors may not occur.

Here’s what I wrote in a previous “Reasons” related to report writing;  Like a good FTO, the “reviewer” must also understand how to provide a proper critique or constructive criticism when necessary to improve future reports and perhaps influence better field performance and decision making.  If officers are allowed to continue writing inadequate reports because nobody knows the difference, they are bound to get in trouble even if it involves a good – or bad – incident.

Also, I know about K9 supervisors making “a few changes” to reports written by handlers during a review process and then submitting these reports without notifying the handler of the changes or doing so after the fact.  Don’t do it!  You can only imagine the serious problems that could be later associated with such an irresponsible practice.

If you don’t have a policy or written procedure that requires a review by the Watch Commander, a supervisor or the K9 supervisor of your K9-related reports that may or may not have a potential for liability before their official submission, you might want to consider doing so.  This practice could save you large sums of money and unwanted heartburn down the road.

Take care, be safe and review those reports thoroughly before submitting…

Bill Lewis II

This “Reason” was previously shared as “Report Review” on May 5, 2014