The First 48 after an Officer Involved Shooting
Thanks to cable TV, the term “the first 48” has become common. People know that the term refers to the immediate period after a homicide during which the investigation takes a fevered pace in an attempt to find witnesses, gather evidence, process information, and make an arrest if possible before a murderer escapes. With the passage of time comes the loss of evidence and investigative advantage.
The first 48 after an OIS is different for the LEO who pulls the trigger. Their investigative duties are complete. They will not be talking to witnesses, examining evidence, searching computers, or canvassing neighborhoods for information. For the LEO who pulls the trigger, the first 48 is filled with every emotion imaginable. Fear, anxiety, remorse, guilt, elation, and fatigue are just a few.
During this period, lots of LEOs also face the reality that they have not properly prepared for this event. I have represented LEOs who had a plan in place. They were Fraternal Order of Police members and also members of the FOP Legal Defense Plan. They knew what to do, who to call, and they knew an attorney would be on the way to the scene.
Others had the number of a lawyer and found out the hard way that the offer to “help in any way I can” did not include responding to a crime scene at 0400 hours. Still others joined organizations only to find that a lawyer was not available to respond to the scene or the lawyer who did respond had no experience handling an OIS.
There are the LEOs who joined a generic legal defense plan only to learn that the program was ill-suited to an OIS or offered only a few hours without cost and additional legal work carried high fees. Finally, some LEOs have no plan to obtain legal representation if they are forced to use deadly force.
Sadly, I’ve represented LEOs in every one of these positions. Those without a plan or with a plan that failed to properly protect them shouldered the added stress on top of the already tremendous pressure placed upon them. It is heartbreaking to sit with these LEOs and their families as they face the reality of the financial burden of hiring and paying an attorney to represent them through the criminal, administrative, prosecutorial, and grand jury investigations. Then there is the media inquiry and preparing for a possible federal investigation and civil suit. You cannot do this alone.
Do you clean your weapon? Do you maintain your vehicle? Do you improve and maintain your firearm and defensive tactics skills? Take 30 minutes today to join the FOP and the Legal Defense Plan. If you are already a member of both, talk to a LEO who is not and encourage them to do so. Family and friends can give both as a present for a birthday or work anniversary. It is a way to protect family assets and perserve a career.
You are out there every day helping strangers. Do something before you find yourself without a plan after the most stressful time in your career. Stay safe.