Because of discussions I have been involved in with some of my ex-colleague and other members of my community on Facebook and other forums, I have been made aware that there is a deficit of knowledge as it relates to the responsibilities of and other key elements of the operation of the police service, force, department, etc., even among serving policing officers.
It is my desire, therefore, to use my knowledge and understanding of this field to fill this gap in this series entitled Police 101, of which this is my fourth submission.
It is no secret that we are living in a troubled world and because of this well known fact there are valid reasons for the existence of the police as an institution within the community.
One of the services the police provide is that they entertain reports from an injured party (a victim or complainant) or on behalf of an injured party (in this case the reporting person is called the complainant).
Another of the responsibilities of the police is to investigate offences that are committed or are alleged to have been committed. With this in mind, when a report is made or the police receive information that an offence has been committed, be it a criminal offence or a non-criminal offence, the first responsibility of the officer entertaining the report is to verify whether an offence has been committed. He does so by listening to the story of the complainant. After the officer has verified that an offence was actually committed, he must then classify the offence; he must thus determine if the offence was a criminal or non-criminal offence. The officer is then required to follow the law, the institution's (police) policy, or institution’s standing orders in dealing with the matter.
The officer has the obligation to inform the complainant of the legal term of the offence, and the type of and possible course of action the police could lawfully take against the offender on behalf of complainant or injured party (the party who was wronged), which may include advising the injured party to take other private actions on his own; such as civil litigation to recover financial damages, etc.
The next step will depend on the type of offence, and the seriousness of the offence that was committed. Let’s say, for example, the offence was a misdemeanour and the level of the damage was small, e.g. a brushed ego. The injured party may just want to lodge a report with the police for a matter of record.
After outlining the possible actions the police can take on the victim’s behalf, the police should then find out what course of action the complainant would like them to take on his or her behalf. It is important to note that such actions can vary from full prosecution, to the issuing of a warning not to cause a re-occurrence of the incident, or the victim may derive satisfaction from the act of making a report to the police against the offending person.
With that said, however, in instances where an offence was committed and the injuries and or loss to the complainant or victims are great, then the officer must consider a more meaningful course of action. In this case, meaningful course of action may mean or involve taking actions to:
• Immediately resolve a resolvable problem,
• Prevent the escalation of the problem.
• Ensure that offender(s) is brought to justice.
• Or any other course of actions that may be appropriate in restoring the harmony within the community.
In some jurisdictions, the injured party’s wishes on all offences must be followed, but in other jurisdictions there are certain offences that, once reported, the injured party cannot withdraw the matter -- offences such as those of a domestic nature, or offences against children. Such offences are always investigated with a view to imminent prosecution.
Allan H. Palmer