There is actually a purpose to this blog

Scott Adams - the writer of the 'Dilbert' comic strip - once described a Mission Statement as 'a long, complicated paragraph demonstrating management's inability to think clearly.' Therefore, I'll not call this a mission statement.

This blog is dedicated to informing civilian Park Rangers about topics routine taught to police officers but almost unknown to most of us who wear a uniform, work alone, and confront potentially dangerous on a frequent basis.

This blog is intended to offer suggestions based on my experience, and on my understanding of Maryland Law. It may be different where you are.

That's my mission.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Probably Cause?

What do you care about Probable Cause? You're not a police officer.

Nothing, strictly speaking. Not as far as the performance of your job is concerned. You can't make an arrest, so therefore you won't have to convince the court that Probable Cause existed before you took action.

In fact, if you are in some way involved in an incident that ultimately leads to court, don't even mention the phrase 'Probable Cause.' It will most likely open the door to a very unpleasant situation for you. Any defense attorney halfway worth his hire will most likely launch into a pattern of questioning designed to discredit you (you have no training in determining probable cause, after all) and win the case for his client.

On the other hand, it is a good idea to know what PC is, in order to help yourself decide if a certain course of action is warranted. And, equally important, to explain your thought process to a police officer if you call one. A knowledge of PC is a good decision making tool.

First of all, you should know that Probable Cause isn't hard and fast. Despite the police officer's best efforts, it is determined by the judge during the trial. It is very much the product of an officer's ability to paint a word picture. The judge wasn't there at the scene when the decision to arrest was made; it is up to the officer to testify in such a manner as to cause the judge to see the facts in his own mind.

The same thing will apply when you discuss what you think is a criminal act or suspicious person with a police officer. No matter what you saw, he didn't. You should be prepared to list, point by point, what attracted your attention, what you observed, and your experience in dealing with such things in the past.
In subsequent posts, I will cover a number of other topics that will - I hope - help fellow Rangers use their six senses to determine that illegal actiity is taking place, and even determine that their safety might well be in jeopardy.

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