|Get a second opinion|
PoliceOne Senior Editor Doug Wyllie
— From an interview with Assistant Chief (ret.) Dale Ferranto
Gather everything you can, look at it, and get another opinion.
Dale Ferranto, a former Assistant Chief (ret.), with the California Department of Justice says that the way Bumper Morgan (the character created by Joseph Wambaugh in books like The Blue Knight) used to say to rookies, ‘Okay now kid, forget everything you learned in that academy because I’m going to teach you how to do police work” is probably the worst advice anybody could ever give.
“Granted, those young officers may not have a feel for the street yet, but that 26 weeks they just spent in the academy is a very, very valuable foundation. We used to say, ‘We hire common sense and we make cops out of them’ and that’s still really true.”
Ferranto says that he used to teach young officers a number of things that reinforced (and expanded upon) academy lessons.
“The first thing is, don’t jump to conclusions. Work your way through the solution using every resource available — whether that’s witness interviews, physical evidence, surveillance video, or other pieces of information that don’t appear to be connected but could be. Do background checks on all the involved people, find out who are the most likely ones to have information — study them just like you’d study the crook and get into the crook’s head,” Ferranto says.
He also advises that investigators look for information that is two or three degrees separated from the principals involved. To do that, he says, requires the use of electronic tools that can make connections between data outside of a single agency’s databases. “For example, look at how many people have lived at a certain address, who their relatives are, and who they’re connected with.”
Ferranto says that this is where some of the new technology out there can be a real time-saver and can help police officers to make some connections that would take even the most experienced investigator as much as a week to uncover.
The next thing, Ferranto says, is to get another opinion about your conclusions. “Probably one of the biggest problems is this sense of ‘ownership.’ Individual detectives, individual units, individual departments have an ownership issue where a lot of times they don’t seek out outside help. But they should. Of course, you don’t want to release any sensitive information, but it’s important to have somebody take a look at your work with a new set of eyes, even within your own ranks, to see if they come up with the same results as you. Give up that ownership and don’t be afraid of some constructive criticism.”
If you’ve got a tough case that could use an investigative boost, you can check out a Free Trial of LexisNexis Accurint for Law Enforcement.
Doug Wyllie is Editor in Chief of PoliceOne, responsible for setting the editorial direction of the website and managing the planned editorial features by our roster of expert writers. In addition to his editorial and managerial responsibilities, Doug has authored more than 750 feature articles and tactical tips on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community.
On a daily basis, Doug is in close personal contact with some of the top subject-matter experts in law enforcement, regularly tapping into the world-class knowledge of officers and trainers from around the United States, and working to help spread that information and insight to the hundreds of thousands of officers who visit PoliceOne every month.
Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), and an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association. He is also a member of the Public Safety Writers Association, and is a three-time (2011, 2012, and 2014) Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" Finalist in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column.
Even in his "spare" time, he is active in his support for the law enforcement community, contributing his time and talents toward police-related charitable events as well as participating in force-on-force training, search-and-rescue training, and other scenario-based training designed to prepare cops for the fight they face every day on the street.
Contact Doug Wyllie