Sunday, November 17, 2019


Law Enforcement Officers make mistakes, plain and simple…it can be as small as an error on a citation or as big as arresting the wrong individual and letting the actual criminal get away. Nevertheless how many mistakes Officers make, it is how that mistake is rectified that makes the difference.

LEOs go through 6-9 months of training that requires them to absorb and remember an enormous amount of information. I am talking: criminal law, traffic law, county/state ordinances, court procedures, laws of search and seizure, use of force, departmental policies, paperwork that is required in specific cases, and more. Knowing that, it is completely understandable that an Officer may make a reasonable mistake every now and then. If they are new or just got released from the Field Training phase... definitely. Throughout my career I have made plenty of mistakes however, I have rectified and learned from every one of them to my knowledge.

If the mistake is simple like an error on a citation, more than likely the citation will be challenged by the alleged offender and thrown out in court. The alleged offender wouldn’t pay anything, wouldn’t serve any jail time, and wouldn’t suffer any deduction in driver status through the DMV. The officer in the situation learns what not to do the next time and thus, will not make the mistake again moving forward. If it’s something like the Officer put the wrong date and time of court on the citation or warrant, that is also an easy fix; the alleged offender will be sent a letter from the agency or contacted via phone if possible and notified of the error and the correct information. In addition to that, the alleged offender can be subpoenaed to court as well to rectify the situation.

All mistakes are reported to the Supervisor; and in cases where the mistake is easily rectified, most likely the Officer won’t face any internal disciplinary action from the department. If it continues to happen though, the Officer can be recommended for some sort of disciplinary action (I. e. remedial training, etc.). 

Major mistakes are uncommon however, they do happen from time to time. Arresting the wrong person for example, isn’t too bad as long as an Officer made the initial arrest in good faith. Upon discovery of evidence proving the innocence of the subject, he or she will be released. In every department I’ve been employed by, there was a De-arrest policy in place so that if this occurs, the subject in custody can be released properly. This is not the same as being released due to not having sufficient evidence against a subject in custody. When someone is arrested, they are immediately brought before a Magistrate of the court or a Duty Officer of the Court for the purpose of presented the circumstances surrounding that subjects arrest. During that time, it can be determined via the Magistrate or Duty Officer that there isn’t sufficient evidence to make the charge. Thus, following that determination, the subject in custody is set free. 

These two examples are not illegal at all because the Officer is initially arresting the subjects based off evidence of an offense committed; however, once the determination is made by a Magistrate/Duty Officer or evidence is presented revealing the person in custody is innocent, they must be promptly released from the Officer's custody.

If the subject is held illegally after that determination is made or evidence is presented revealing innocence, that Officer can face internal Disciplinary action from the their respective agency (I. e. remedial training, suspension, separation from the agency). In addition, because that action would be considered depriving someone of their liberty without just cause to do so, the agency as well as that Officer can be sued in federal court for damages and neglect of duty. Thus, it is very important to avoid major mistakes when it comes to Law enforcement because it can lead to major consequences for both the agency and the Officer as well. Getting fired is one thing, owing 1 million dollars while being fired is another. 

Mistakes Are Made….All the Time!