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Grievance Officer Reports On Complaint About Policeman

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Because of the general interest, The News is publishing the full report of City Grievance Officer Edward L. Vandenberg to the City Council concerning a pólice interview following a traffic accident. The text of the report follows: "A woman complained about the manner in which a pólice officer interviewed her to obtain information for an accident report. She feit that the pólice officer approached what should have been a routine matter in a hostile manner and with little sensitivity for the circumstances. "While the woman was backing out of her driveway, her seven-year-old son ran behind the car and was knocked to the pavement. The woman took her son to a local hospital for emergency treatment. While waiting with her son in a room in the x-ray department, the complainant's name was called out. She stepped into the hall and saw a pólice officer wearing a heimet. The officer told her he wanted to ask her questions for an accident report. Although she explained that her son was in the room alone, the officer insisted that she go with him and answer his questions. The woman was able to get one of the interns in the x-ray department to stay with her son while I she wentto the waiting area with the officer. As the officer I and the woman entered the I waiting area, the receptionist Itold the officer that the Pólice I Department had called and left I a message for him to return to I road patrol as soon as possible. I "The officer began questionling the woman in the public I waiting area in the presence oi ■ her 15-year-old daughter and 14lyear-old son who had accomI panied her to the hospital. The I complainant reported. that the I officer never removed his hel I met, that he was impatient with I her, and that he acted disgust I ed with her throughout the I interview. She explained that I her husband was out of town on I a business trip and that the car I she was driving belonged to his I business partner. When she was I unable to give exact answers to I the officer's questions about the make, model, license number and complete name of the owner, she pointed out the car to he officer. He insisted that he ïad to have exact information. "Finally the complainant elephoned the wife of her husand's partner to obtain the nformation. Because she was upset and shaken, her daughter assisted by dialing the number lor her. More problems arose n the interview when the officer asked questions about the compass direction of the driveway, measurements of the driveway, and the point of impact. The complainant reported that the officer seemed to be insensitive to the strain she was under and questioned her like she was a hostile witness on trial. Because of the strain of the accident and the pressures of the officer, she said that she broke down and cried several timeSr The officer reported that the only time she cried was when her son was brought into the waiting area and the doctor reported he was not injured and the x-rays werej negative. "Although the officer had difficulty in obtaining information for the accident report and was under pressure to return to road patrol, he never informed the complainant that she could complete the accident report at the Pólice Station. The Pólice Department response stated that the officer '. . . demonstrated interest by staying and interviewing the complainant even though he knew he was needed on patrol, He 1 strated interest by taking the] complaint himself rather than suggesting another officer take it at some later time. He demonstrated interest by going to the complainant and asking her to go from one room to another, rather than going from the hospital to City Hall (where people have additional problems such as no available parking and desk officer being busy which often causes persons to wait in order to give these reports) ... The officer's judgment in this case seems to be sound and the case also shows initiative on his part to actually do the report where he could !■! Mi lave chosen to let someone else do the work. The complainant's response to this was that she was n e v e r aware of the alternative of completing the report at the Pólice Station. She stated that she would rather undergo the inconveniences of completing the report at the station than to continue the tense and upsetting interview in the hospital waiting room. As it turned out, the officer decided what was best for her and she never had a choice. What the pólice regard as commendable initiative, the complainant regards as insensitivity. "The complainant was not only concerned about the manner in which the officer conducted the interview but also upset about the bad impression of pólice officers received by her son and daughter during this contact. At her request, a conference was arranged for the complainant and her daughter and son to talk with the officer and his immediate superior. She reported that, although ,here was frank discussion II about her complaint, the officer I was as 'aloof' and 'uptight' I ing the conference as he was I during the interview at the I pital. The daughter and the son I ielt that nothing had been I accomplished and that the 1 Eerence was a 'bore.' On the I other hand, the officers feit I that the conference resulted in I a 'feeling of understanding' and I that it certainly ' . . . did not I appear to be a bore.' Moreover, I the pólice response commended the officers for meeting with the complainant and her children stating that, although '. . . I the Command Officer and the Officer would have found it much easier to have called in I sick or try and find some way to avoid having to go to such a conference, they chose to attend it in the interest of the public service and the pólice profession.' ''Although there was an admission that the officer erred in-failing to remove his heimet, there has been no resolution of pther problems mentioned in Lhe complaint. The complainant Eeels that the Pólice DepartCnent does not understand what phe is complaining about, while the department states '. . . it Uppears that all has been done fchat can be done to resolve this Icomplaint.' "RECOMMENDATION: Ap jplicants who pass the selecjtion criteria for pólice recruits jundergo a comprehensive trainJing program designed to give Jthem the information and skills lnecessary for good law enforceJment. In addition, the training program should teach officers jto perform their jobs effectively under pressure while mainItaining sensitivity to the feelIngs and problems of the per'Isons with whom they come in Icontact. If the actions and attifcudes of an officer produce the Ikind of reaction disclosed in Ithis complaint by the way he Ihandled a routine matter, what Ireactions might there be to Isuch an officer in a confrontaItion or arrest situation? Pólice )fficers are called upon to i Jle many tense and volatile ' situations. It should be a ; ter of critical concern to the Pólice Department that the attitudes and actions of officers io not, in themselves, créate or contribute to tensions and tem-j pers. "RESPONSE: The Poli cel Department submitted a I resume of the selection and training of an Ann Arbor Pólice Officer. That report reviewed the qualifications and standards an applicant must meet before he is accepted as a recruit. Once accepted a recruit must attend and pass 440 hours of classroom training in the Ann: Arbor Pólice Academy. There are a variety of theoretical, informational and practical courses covering all aspects of pólice work. After recruits complete classroom work, they begin a six months period of probationary on-the-job training. They are assigned as a platoon to work under an meed officer. Both at the oeginning and the end of each shift the recruits receive briefings and in-service training together with a critical review ai each recruit's activities during the shift. At times during the probationary period the recruits return to the classroom I to review and analyze the kinds I of contacts made by them as I well as their attitudes and I behavior in handling these I tacts. When recruits I ly complete the period of I bationary training they are finally assigned to regular duty. "One serious .shoïtcoming, admitted by the dèpartment, is that, once a recruit completes the initial training program, there is no further refresher or in-service training because of lack of funds and manpower. j "Even if the selection and training program is as good as it appears to be, the Chief of Pólice and the City AdministraItor should consider the possibillity of using an advisory board Ifor periodic review of selection I criteria and the curriculum and I content of the training proIgram. Such an advisory board , f might also play a useful role in setting up regular in-service orj refresher training for all offi-l I cers in the dèpartment." I I ■