Subject: Protocol and Written Guidelines to Maintain Incident Report Attachments
Recommendation: The Office of Citizen Complaints recommends that the San Francisco Police Department develop a protocol and written guidelines that ensure that required documents such as strip search authorizations, citizen arrest forms, certificates of release, emergency protective orders, and cold show admonitions are properly scanned, filed and maintained by the Records Management Section to the same degree that incident reports are.
Police officers are often required to fill out a variety of forms that contain vital information about actions they have taken during the course of investigation. For example, if an officer detains an individual and releases him or her after investigation, an officer is required to fill out a certificate of release form (Penal Code sec.849(b)) which is provided to the individual and maintained by the Records Management Section of the Department. This document informs the individual of the date and time of the police encounter and states that the police encounter was for detention purposes only and did not amount to an arrest. Sometimes this document is the only evidence of the police encounter.
During the course of numerous OCC investigations, SFPD members have stated that they complied with department mandates by filling out required forms and attaching them to the incident report but that when OCC investigators or the SFPD members themselves attempt to obtain such records, they cannot be located. For example, in one case where the legality of a strip search was at issue, the officer stated she had obtain authorization from a superior and filled out the strip search authorization form that she claimed she attached to the incident report. However, the form was not attached to the incident report and could never be located. In another case where the existence of an emergency protective order (EPO) was at issue, the officer stated that he had attached it to the incident report. Efforts to obtain the EPO through the Records Management Section were unsuccessful. The officer was able to locate a copy of the EPO in his own records and that copy exonerated the officer.
Such documents are often vital to demonstrate compliance with federal and state laws and department general orders. These documents often provide important information to the civilian regarding the type of action the Department has taken in the civilian’s case. Thus, to ensure proper and complete record keeping, these documents should be scanned, filed and maintained to the same degree that incident reports are.
Investigated by: Sergei Litvinov & Erick Baltazar
Prepared by: SAMARA MARION, Senior Attorney
Approved by: KEVIN ALLEN, Director
Date: June 20, 2003