Get a second opinion
— 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.”
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