What Happens After an Officer Involved Shooting?

What happens when a Springfield Police Department officer is involved in an fatal shooting like the incident Monday night at Sunset Woodlands Apartments?

OI obtained the SPD’s manual for dealing with officer-involved shootings. What follows is a summary of what is supposed to happen in the aftermath of an officer-involved shooting or unintentional discharge of a firearm. (Some information was redacted from the copy obtained by OI.)

The officer who shoots a suspect or discharges their firearm will immediately see if the person shot needs assistance and will render first aid. They then call into communications to inform them of the incident, request additional assistance to the scene and notify their supervisor.

Unless there is a hazardous situation for the officer, such as an angry and violent crowd at the shooting site, the officer remains on-site until the arrival of a supervisor.

A “host officer”, who was not involved in any way with the shooting incident, will be assigned at the scene to the officer involved to maintain the integrity of the evidence. The officer involved is not to leave the presence of the host officer until a supervisor relieves the host officer.

Weapons and ammunition will be preserved for the investigators.

The officer involved will then be ordered to be available at any time to Internal Affairs, administrative interviews and to make a statement about the case.

The officer involved will be placed on administrative leave for the course of the investigation, with that placement not being a determination of any improper action on the part of the officer. They are to remain available for any investigators during that leave and not discuss the case except with specific investigative personnel, their immediate family, their lawyer and their chosen clergy member.

Dispatchers at the time of the incident make sure medical aid is requested if needed and to notify the on-duty or on-call Watch Commander.

The Patrol Supervisor notifies the on-duty Watch Commander and then responds to the scene to handle management responsibilities. They arrange for in-custody medical transport if needed; establishes the crime scene through personnel, crime scene tape, barricades or whatever is necessary to preserve the scene.

The PS assigns the host officer to the officer involved in the incident and arranges for that officer to be sequestered and removed from the scene as quickly as possible.

When the Watch Commander and supervisor for the Crimes Against Persons Supervisor arrive on the scene, the Patrol Supervisor briefs them on the situation.

The Patrol Supervisor then makes arrangements for the Crimes Against Persons investigators to take possession of the weapon and ammunition of the involved officer. The officer’s vehicle is also inventoried and secured.

Arrangements are made for a replacement service weapon for the officer “as soon as practical.” The weapon is obtained through Internal Affairs or a Range Officer.

The On-Duty Watch Commander’s responsibilities include informing a number of individuals about the incident: Investigation and Support Services Bureau; Chief of Police (through chain of command); Inspections and Internal Affairs Supervisor; the appropriate Bureau Commander; Public Affairs officer; and Critical Incident Response Team.

They release the scene to the Crimes Against Person Section Supervisor upon their arrival to the incident. If additional manpower is needed, they request it. They also maintain the security of the site via patrol until the scene is released by the Crimes Against Persons section.

When the Crimes Against Persons Section arrives on the scene they begin the investigation.

The Commander of the unit directs the overall management of the investigation including implementation of the major case management process.

The commander coordinates with the crime scene supervisor, the public affairs officer and updates the appropriate members of the department including the Internal Affairs Sergeant and the Chief of Police.

The Violent Crimes Unit Sergeant assigns the investigative personnel on the scene and determines if the Homicide Response Team needs to be notified about the situation. If a homicide, he notifies the medical examiner, the Greene County Prosecutor’s Office and family of the victim if the victim is not an officer.

They are the person who will release the crime scene when all evidence collection is complete.

The Crimes Against Persons Section Crime Scene Investigations team them processes the incident site. (Much of this part of the document obtained by OI were redacted to hide the details of the process.)

A CAP Follow-up Team will interview witnesses and any additional suspects, apply for search warrants, continue investigations and prepare criminal case reports. If there is an autopsy necessary they will attend that examination. (A significant part of this team’s section of the document was redacted.)

The Crimes Against Persons investigation team turns in a case report to the Greene County Prosecutor’s Office and the Inspections and Internal Affairs Unit.

At this point, the Prosecutor’s Office and Internal Affairs Unit determines whether to proceed with prosecution or administrative actions. The department will also cooperate with federal investigators if they wish to do an independent investigation. The officer has the right not to speak to federal investigators without counsel.

When the criminal and administrative lethal force investigations are complete and the prosecutor’s review is done, the Chief of Police holds a Lethal Force Review Panel. This is a non-disciplinary panel reviews the department’s response to the incident including reviews of tactics, training, policy and involved equipment. The panel will then recommend any changes they feel are necessary as a result of the incident.

The officer involved will also be given support services.

A department-furnished psychologist will meet with the officer within five days of the incident to help the officer process the incident. The psychologist will make a recommendation to the Chief of Police regarding the officer’s fitness for duty.

The officer can continue to meet with the psychologist or police chaplain about the incident and those communications are kept privileged from investigators. Counseling is also provided to the officer’s spouse.

The length of that psychological help is determined by the Chief of Police and the city’s Director of Human Resources.

The Critical Incident Response Team also provides peer support to the involved officer.

(Redactions in the document obtained by OI and other information related to police related shootings are exempt from RSMo Chapter 610, the Sunshine Law.)

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