That feeling. You know the one I’m taking about. The one that comes AFTER it’s “over”. You went to arrest someone, and they decided they didn’t want to be arrested. And they decided they would fight you in order to stay unarrested. But your training paid off. They are under arrest, and you aren’t injured. Thank goodness that’s over with.
But it’s not. In fact, it’s far from over. Not by a long shot. The report still must be written. And approved. You must make sure that you are in fact uninjured because we don’t always realize it at first.
And then there’s the investigation - or, in some cases, investigations. These sometimes take a while - a long while.
I just read a news story where an officer involved shooting investigation was finally completed by the prosecutor’s office in 6 months. That’s right. 6 months to complete the investigation and conclude that the officer was indeed justified.
But what about you during those 6 months? How is that process affecting you? It is probably a time of great uncertainty, worry, and frustration. You may or may not be back to full duty status. But the investigation is always there, always on your mind.
If you understand a couple of things up front you will be better prepared to deal with this.
First, as stressful as they are, a complete and thorough investigation conducted properly is in your best interests. Having a third-party review of your actions find those actions justified gives greater legitimacy to your actions. Not a fun time but a good result.
Second, having realistic expectations of the internal process will better prepare you for it. Be intimately familiar with your agency policies. A deep understanding of the internal process doesn’t relieve all the stress, but it does help to minimize it.
Finally, recognize that if there is a criminal review of your incident it’s going to take a while. Don’t misread this. It doesn’t mean you’re in trouble. It means that it takes time to thoroughly investigate things - especially something as complex and as important as a use of force.
That feeling we talked about at the beginning is fantastic. It feels good - really good. But if we buy into it too soon it makes the process that much harder to deal with. Don’t get too caught up in it. Winning these types of encounters requires preparation for the long haul. Some hauls are longer than others, just be ready for them.