CRITICAL INCIDENT REPRESENTATION
By Dale F. Norris
Law Office of Dale Norris, LLC
Since becoming an attorney in 2000, I have represented police officers in approximately 100 critical incidents involving use of force, in custody deaths, serious traffic accidents, and criminal allegations.
The decision to make a statement to a criminal investigator is always the client’s choice. Some clients wanted to make a statement immediately, some wanted to wait and some didn’t have a preference. What is common to all officers is that they want to tell their story, want their rights protected. When I am called to the scene of a critical incident, protecting the officer’s interests are my priority. I do not consider whether the agency needs to make a press release or its convenience.
In protecting an officer’s interest and advising an officer whether to speak with criminal investigators, I’ll consider the totality of the situation along with information not necessarily related to the actions in question. Many times an officer may appear upset, tired, confused or even sleepy following a lethal confrontation or extremely stressful circumstances. If you are involved in any critical incident, use should first consider the protection of life and apprehension of any suspects. When the situation is stable, consider your own best interests.
As an association member, you may request an attorney through the 24-hour number at the Legal Defense Fund (800-255-5610) or from an association board member. Get yourself to a calm place and stop talking about your actions unless necessary to apprehend outstanding suspects. Drink water and get comfortable (cool down in the summer and warm up in the winter).
Know that an attorney will be along shortly to represent your interests and assist you through the processes that will follow. The agency has peer support to assist you and the association will be there as well. Be safe, and wear your vest!