|Risk indicators for misconduct
|By Tracy E. Barnhart
Tracy Barnhart is a Marine combat veteran of Desert Storm / Desert Shield. In 2000, he joined the Ohio Department of Youth Services at the Marion Juvenile Corrections Facility, a maximum security male correctional facility housing more than 320 offenders. Barnhart works with 16 to 21-year-old, male offenders with violent criminal convictions and aggressive natures. In his monthly column, he discusses everyday issues affecting corrections professionals.
Even though obtaining a position in law enforcement is a difficult process at best, we must consider the individuals who slip through the cracks. The goal is to identify officers who pose a liability to the department and themselves.
These are the officers who get the most complaints and consider themselves the mavericks of the agency. They are the “superheroes” of the shift whose arrests are sometimes questionable and overly aggressive. The following is a profile of high-risk officers with a propensity toward misconduct. The are usually younger than 30-years-old, have less than five years on the job, have only a high school education, and are assigned a two-person unit.
The following are problematic risk indicators of officers who may be involved in misconduct, or overstressed from job related incidents during their careers:
Use of force disproportionately high
Domestic violence incidents
Sick time usage
Resisting arrest incidents
Assault on an officer cases
Arrested subjects injuries
Officer injury incidents
Preventable vehicle accidents
Loss of equipment
Involvement in major incidents
Below satisfactory performance evaluations
Law enforcement administrators throughout the country have long recognized that a small percentage of officers are responsible for a disproportionate share of complaints, which can tarnish the reputation of the entire agency. The benefits of identifying officer misconduct early include:
Defending the agency in a “Custom and Practice” lawsuit
Forcing supervisory involvement in the officer's development
Controlling complaints and use-of-force incidents and restoring public confidence
Providing information to develop training, policy and tactics
Below are examples of brutality from a department that should have been indicators of misconduct and corruption but was never flagged.
One of the fundamental causes of these incidents, which were part of a larger scandal, was a breakdown in managerial oversight. While the department's mission statement clearly emphasizes “respect” and “character,” the officers in the unit were not held accountable for upholding these principles.
This unit created an autonomous culture that was distant from the influences of upper management. The heralded officers of the department were cutting corners and breaking laws, which made it easier for others to follow suit.
It is not our job to punish people even though we see a visible need for the corrective change. It is our job to report violations of the law.
Individuals above our pay grade are responsible for the issuance of punishment to our citizens. When we cross this delicate line of reporting and punishment then we go too far and get caught up in misconduct and corruption.
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