Webinar presenter Rick Hodsdon answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Officer-Involved Shootings Part 2. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: Do you have a sense of how many officer-involved shootings there are each year?
Rick Hodsdon: Well, we know how many I mean because the FBI keeps track. We keep track of the number of officers that are killed or injured. We also know the FBI keeps track of the number of individuals who are killed by officers and I don’t have a number on that. Certainly it’s not as high as the public sometimes think. I don’t know that we have a comprehensive number because most officer-involved shootings actually don’t result, at least the research I found indicates that most, officer-involved shootings do not result in death. If we take a broad definition of officer-involved shootings being an officer discharge of a firearm, unless it’s something about the marksmanship of the officers, but there are some studies that indicate that people don’t even get hit like half the time. So the number I saw the last one that comes to mind is there are a couple hundred a year.
Audience Question: You also mentioned that our audience may not be representative of the US with 60% of them having body-worn cameras. Do the sense you talked a little bit about this, but you have a sense as to what percentage of US officers have body-worn cameras.
Rick Hodsdon: Well my experience is that that it really regionally varies a great deal. Not surprisingly urban areas and metro area is very large number of agencies, a high percentage at this point in time, I would say have them. But you go to some parts of this country, for example, the state of Texas has got 201 counties. Some of those counties the entire Sheriff’s Office is the sheriff and a deputy, we have that same kind of demographics a lot of these areas of the Midwest that are shrinking and losing population. Even in my state, I’ve got Sheriff’s Office that’s are the sheriff and four deputies and a clerical person. So, if you went by percentages of law enforcement agencies, I would venture a guess at this point certainly, a quarter of the agencies or less if you’re using a percentage of the number of officers wearing body cameras, uniformed officers that is wearing body cameras, versus the number of uniformed officers and I think the numbers are higher but I don’t think anybody’s got a good handle on it.
Audience Question: Are group debriefings legally hazardous? And he goes on to kind of explain that so if one discloses information in a group setting is that information admissible in court? So for example, loss of confidentiality privilege, I think this was in that discussion of the debriefing that you were talking about earlier Rick.
Rick Hodsdon: There are situational context and that’s covered in part by statutes in some states. So for example, if you have a statute that addresses law enforcement, first responders or public safety peer counseling debriefing, in some states that information is declared to be privileged information. Generally, it’s not going to be admissible, it’s not intended to be admissible in a civil, administrative or even a criminal proceeding against the officer. In other states, if we’re not trying something that’s covered though by statues a general open debriefing, then if it’s otherwise admissible and there’s a civil or criminal or administrative proceeding in which it’s relevant, then they do have legal hazards in the sense it’s probably going to result in whatever is happening in that debriefing is going to be used in civil, criminal or administrative hearing. There definitely are some risks. I think the better situation would be to protect the privileged information would typically be between the officer and officers involved in the shooting and if for example, they’re in the union and the union decides to provide legal counsel, then we have the traditional attorney-client privilege. Even in that circumstance if we had multiple officers, I would strongly suggest and encourage if you’re going to try to maintain an attorney-client privilege that only one officer speak to the attorney at a time. In other words, you don’t have three officers who were involved in the incident come in and talk to the lawyer together because the existence of the other two officers there will in most jurisdictions cause the privilege to go away.
Audience Question: You mentioned earlier in the presentation the mobile crime scene units and the ability to duplicate files for citizens’ phones. Do you remember or know the software that’s often being used in these units?
Rick Hodsdon: I don’t know the software because again, I’m not much of a tech guy but I’m only one step ahead of my it 92-year-old mother and she has a flip phone so I couldn’t tell you the technology. But I can tell you one of the agencies that told me they are acquiring it if anybody wants to make an inquiry and that is Washington County, I have to emphasize Minnesota because there are so many Washington counties. The Washington County Minnesota sheriff’s office I was told by one of their staff either had acquired or was acquiring the ability for that mobile duplication system. So that might be a group that you could reach out to and ask.
Audience Question: Rick you talked about earlier and we certainly saw this also in the polling question that there is distrust between police and prosecutors. And in your presentation, you also talked about some of the distrust that has grown between management and the rank-and-file. Have you seen any agencies successfully rebuild that interagency trust or the trust between management the rank-and-file? What are they doing? How could we repair this problem?
Rick Hodsdon: I’ve seen it happen over the years at least between police and prosecutors. The way it usually happens is the prosecutor either retires, gets promoted to a judge, or gets voted out of office. In the times I’ve seen it happen when you get voted out of office, often the law enforcement agencies have finally gotten off their hands and actually pushed hard to do something about it but it doesn’t always work though. Sometimes it may make the situation worse. In terms of management administration that also I would say if there’s a change or an increase in trust, it seems to happen when new management comes in. The former chief or sheriff one way or another leaves the agency even then that’s a long-term process because the new person ends up inheriting a dysfunctional organization from the trust standpoint and that’s tough. It’s like so many things in relationships. It’s way easier to break them then put them back together.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Officer-Involved Shootings Part 2.