Critical incidents in Law Enforcement
The first thing you should do after a critical incident is call an attorney. Even if you’re still at the scene of the incident, you can call The Ment Law Group, PC at 866-MENT-LAW. We will come to you and help you understand the investigation process that you’re facing. You have served the public throughout your career, and you deserve to have someone on your side in this critical time.
It is hard to understand the emotionally charged and dangerous situations that law enforcement officers must deal with day in and day out. Sometimes, urgent judgments calls must be made. This is true for local police, correction officers, state police, or anyone called “to protect and serve.” However, when the features of a situation escalate past everyday policing or if serious bodily injury or death result, your decisions may be questioned.
These critical incidents can be traumatic for all those affected. As the officer involved, you will also have the responsibility of dealing with the investigation process to follow, which can be intimidating and confusing, even for the most seasoned law enforcement official. With decades of legal experience and an extensive background as lawyers for police officers across Connecticut and New York state, The Ment Law Group, PC can offer the support and legal guidance you need when the unfortunate happens and a critical incident occurs.
Officer Involved Critical Incidents
If you are involved in a critical incident, it will likely result in an investigation to determine if your actions conformed to the law and official department policy. While these should be conducted with the utmost thoroughness, professionalism, and impartiality, these inquiries are primarily aimed at protecting public interest and the integrity of the organization you represent. You should be cognizant of the fact that your best ally in any internal or external investigation is going to be a legal representative of your choosing. When your rights, reputation, and career are on the line, they need serious protection from the very beginning.
At The Ment Law Group, PC, we represent police officers and other law enforcement professionals from the local to state levels with any critical incident that may lead to disciplinary action, suspension, termination, or criminal charges. Due to the volatile nature of law enforcement, a critical incident can happen under a variety of circumstances. Some of the most common examples of critical incidents that we can help with include:
- Officer-Involved Shootings
- Taser and Non-Lethal Weapon Use
- Wrongful Death While in Custody
- Official Misconduct Allegations
- Sexual Assault Claims
- Dereliction of Duty
- Volatile Interactions with the Community
Internal Affairs & Types of OICI investigations
Critical incident investigations in Connecticut and New York are usually spearheaded by the law enforcement agency’s respective Internal Affairs Division. In different law enforcement professions, these departments may go by different names, like the Office of Professional Responsibility, or Standards, but they all share the same function. These units are tasked with exploring on-the-job incidents, suspected criminal behavior, and professional misconduct.
Depending on the unique circumstances and allegations, a critical incident may involve several separate investigations, including:
- Criminal investigations of the events leading up to the incident, the officer’s alleged actions, and any contributing factors. These can be internal inquiries or relinquished to outside agencies. Consequences include criminal charges and their corresponding penalties if convicted.
- Civil investigations to assess any potential liability for negligence by the officer or the agency represented.
- Administrative investigations to determine if any department policies were violated. Penalties can involve departmental sanctions, demotion, suspension, and possible termination.
Accommodations and Your Rights in a Critical Incident Investigation
The trauma and stress associated with an officer needing to act quickly to preserve their own safety or the safety of others can obviously take its toll. This is unfamiliar terrain for most and in addition to a complex process, those involved may also experience ill-effects or symptoms of PTSD for a long time afterward. Therefore, law enforcement agencies should have well-established protocols and ongoing training, designed to offer support and services to officers involved in critical incidents.
Officers are usually unfamiliar with what happens after a critical incident, but as experienced attorneys focused on defending members of law enforcement, we can alleviate this burden and help you face what comes next. In many cases, it’s the time immediately following a critical incident that matters most. What you do in the first few moments or say to investigators prior to speaking with an attorney can impact the outcome of your case.
Once the officer is moved to a secure location after a critical incident, they ought to be advised that the matter should not be discussed except with legal counsel.
Police and law enforcement officers have all the legal protections afforded to private citizens and some other safeguards because of their positions. Specifically, union members of law enforcement have the right to union representation at any investigatory interviews in accordance with their Weingarten Rights. Additionally, while a Miranda warning is considered sufficient to explain citizens’ rights in custody, state or local investigators implement what is known as a Garrity warning to advise employees of their rights. A Garrity warning also advises subjects of their right to remain silent in an investigation, but also explains their potential criminal and administrative exposure for any statements they make. For federal employees, this is known as a Kalkines warning.