Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Preparing a Notepad for Evidentiary Use

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Preparing a Notepad for Evidentiary Use

    Most security officers are issued, or required to buy, spiral bound notepads. These notepads should be of a size that make them convient to carry, and should be shielded from inclement weather for the duration of their use.

    Upon first getting the notepad, one would think that you just jot down notes, and throw it away after filling it up, or sticking it somewhere. Depending on your company policy, this is usually not the case.

    In court, a witness may refer to texts as "memory aids" while giving testimony. These texts will usually be subopenaed by either counsel, so that both counsels have time to review them and prepare argument for/against them.

    As such, your written notes are important. They are what you base your chronological log entries and incident reports on. They are what both sides will want to examine with a microscope. If it is shown that the notes taken are able to be altered or destroyed, then credibility issues are raised. Questions like, "Did you tear a page out, then rewrite your notes to implicate my client?" can be raised.

    When first purchasing a notepad, think of it as a mini chronological log. Take your notepad, and count the sheets. At the start of the note pad, write the following satement, in block print, replacing the information as appropriate to you:


    On 25 December, 2005, at 1900 hours, I, Lt. N. A. Corbier #3270, opened this security officer's notebook. There are 100 double sided sheets, for a total of 200 pages accounted for, numbered in sequence. All pages are blank as of the opening of this notebook.


    Then, becomes the tedious part of preparing a notebook. Using a black pen, you must label every page with a page number. This is where finding pre-numbered notepads comes handy. However, even the Write in the Rain notepads don't have numbers at times.

    The reason for the above is to prove that the pages have not been altered when they are presented before a court of law, a district attorney, or an investigator from the police, fire, insurance industry. It can be reasonably proven that the contents are not altered by removing pages because the pages were numbered long ago, or not so long ago, before the notebook started seeing use.

    When making entries, remember to put enough information that you will be able to recall the incident your writing notes about weeks or months in the future. A standardized heading for each "event" is sometimes taught at police academies, and may be appropriate for you. Otherwise, note at minimum:
    • The Date and Time of the incident
    • The street address and client name
    • The type of incident/offense
    • Company Report / Event Number(s)
    • Police Report / Even Number(s)
    • Other company employee's present (by name)

    In this way, no matter what's going on, you will know what other sources of information are available to consult when your scratching your head wondering what WMx2 205 AgBat(Dom) means - which you thought would make perfect sense when you wrote it.

    While most reports and chronological logs should be written in plain english without jargon, your notes are designed to refresh you. So long as you know what the jargon and abbreviations you are using in your notepad are, it is acceptable to use them. Anything required to be "brought up" in court over your notes will require your presence to explain them.

    Finally, after exausting a notepad, keep it around. You may be called to testify multiple times on a simple incident without police intervention in a civil case a year later - or the criminal case you were working may go to trial 6-12 months from the day you made your arrest/detention.

    This, indeed, has happened to me. 8 months after an arrest by local police on my property, in which I assisted a small police manhunt for a suspect on my property, I was subponea'ed. No information on what it was, and the police CANNOT give you information on an active case. Thankfully, the desk officer gave me a police report number, and I was able to locate the notebook and incident report based off that. There's nothing more annoying than going before the State's Attorney blind. On a lighter note, the bad guy pleaded out the moment his lawyer saw four out of four officers his client was being charged with failing to obey and resisting with violence sitting in the waiting room, comparing notes.
    Some Kind of Commando Leader

    "Every time I see another crazy Florida post, I'm glad I don't work there." ~ Minneapolis Security on Florida Security Law

  • #2
    N.A. has given sound advice. I would add, Notepad #1, Notepad #2 and so forth, information provided by the police cross-referenced using their log or incident number matched to the report prepared for your company and the client.
    It might sound trite, but answer The Who, The What, The Where, The When, The Why and The How.
    Never, ever be surprised when counsel asks, "What is the color of your grandmother's left eye?" That was jocular, I know, but don't jolt.
    If you follow a set routine, be prepared to explain why it was necessary to deviate from that routine. Not being able to do so, could be exploited as sloppiness.
    Mentally be prepared to defend every word you have entered and above all never use offensive terminology.
    If you do not know how to write well, you can do it. It takes education and practice. Write out practice reports and have a superior officer critique them. If you are thin skinned, toughen it up.
    Expect to hear: "You used a bifurcated pronoun, why was that?" or "This sentence contains a tautology, why was that?"
    When you describe barn-yard waste, those listening should be able to smell it and not feel offended.
    State or commonwealth counsel may step in and aid your cause, but do not count on it.
    Enjoy the day,
    Bill

    Comment


    • #3
      Good advice, Bill. Another pointer: Do not draw conclusions when documenting incidents in your daily reports. As mentioned, just state the facts. If your opinion is needed, you will be asked. Otherwise, you will likely be cut-off by the plaintiff?s attorney with an objection like: Calls for conclusion or witness not qualified to answer. For example: Ms. Smith slipped and fell because she was walking too fast. Carelessness. Better: Ms. Smith fell while walking to her vehicle in the parking lot. An investigation revealed that the area was salted and sanded with warning signs placed in visible areas. No other slip and fall accidents occurred in the parking lot.
      Security: Freedom from fear; danger; safe; a feeling of well-being. (Webster's)

      Comment


      • #4
        Great info

        I'm going to start carrying a proper notebook. My co-workers tend to grab scraps of papers before thier rounds and jot notes down on that. I've been carrying a pocket sized notebook and its great for keeping things in order. My job requires us to report burnt out light bulbs and other maintence things, so I think I'll carry two notebooks. One like N.A. mentioned and only use it for incidents that may require me to testify someday and the other will be for the BS notes like "light blah blah burnt out, report to maintence". Thanks N.A.!

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by ff000525
          I'm going to start carrying a proper notebook. My co-workers tend to grab scraps of papers before thier rounds and jot notes down on that. I've been carrying a pocket sized notebook and its great for keeping things in order. My job requires us to report burnt out light bulbs and other maintence things, so I think I'll carry two notebooks. One like N.A. mentioned and only use it for incidents that may require me to testify someday and the other will be for the BS notes like "light blah blah burnt out, report to maintence". Thanks N.A.!
          I strongly suggest placing notes about enviornmental threats (lights out, safety issues, etc) in your patrol notebook. Why? Because, that light you reported out, and the client failed to replace? If something bad happens there, the client had a duty to provide a standard of care (security lighting) which they failed to provide, resulting in the problem (attack, slip/fall, death, whatever). They will immediately say, "The guard didn't tell us it was out, we rely on the guard to do so, because we are not there during the hours the light is on."

          You refer to your evidentiary notebook, along with your chronological log entries/reports, and go, "Oh, but we DID tell you. And we kept telling you. For four months."

          Thank you for the kind words.
          Some Kind of Commando Leader

          "Every time I see another crazy Florida post, I'm glad I don't work there." ~ Minneapolis Security on Florida Security Law

          Comment


          • #6
            My small piece of advice, gleaned from experience: If you're using two notebooks, keep all your work stuff in one, and your personal stuff in the other. DON'T MIX THE TWO. I've seen an officer who happened to scribble some work stuff in his personal notebook find his whole personal notebook in the defense lawyer's lap.

            No he wasn't happy about it.

            Neither was his girlfriend.

            Neither was his wife.

            Comment


            • #7
              Although not well received, when working for security comapnies, I asked supervisors to write the Latin word "VISUM," I have seen, along with their initials in the notebook I maintained. There was never any real trouble in having them do that. In the maintenance of 24-hour blotters, I initialed my first and last entries. In my case, I used the government issued bound ledger. No page could be ripped out without telltale evidence of it having been removed.
              I agree with wilrobnson, never enter personal data into your "official" ledger. That is why you should maintain a pocket sized memo pad with you at all times.
              It may sound crazy to maintain such records, but wait until you receive a ?Subpoena Duces Tecum.? We as security professionals know the penalty for sloppiness.
              Enjoy the day,
              Bill

              Comment


              • #8
                ...And you'll soon learn to hate the word 'discovery'

                Speaking of all this, where in the heck does one buy numbered notebooks? I was issued them in Cali, numbered my own in AK, and continue the practice in the private sector.

                It's getting old.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by wilrobnson
                  ...And you'll soon learn to hate the word 'discovery'

                  Speaking of all this, where in the heck does one buy numbered notebooks? I was issued them in Cali, numbered my own in AK, and continue the practice in the private sector.

                  It's getting old.
                  Probally the same place that you buy "reporter's notebooks," at 4 inches by 11 inches. Have them custom ordered.
                  Some Kind of Commando Leader

                  "Every time I see another crazy Florida post, I'm glad I don't work there." ~ Minneapolis Security on Florida Security Law

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ff000525
                    I'm going to start carrying a proper notebook.
                    Always a good idea. Just a word of caution though. I know that liability wise, we are required to report maintenance problems until corrected. However, if you discern that the client doesn't want you to keep logging it, and your company won't back you up, reconsider. Otherwise, you will be dismissed for some other frivolous reason because you "rocked the boat." I know because it happened to me a couple of years ago.

                    See my thread entitled: "Don't rock the Boat."

                    As far as liability is concerned, most guards don't have enough assets to show up on the radar of the plaintiff?s attorney. They will target the security company with the deep pockets.
                    Security: Freedom from fear; danger; safe; a feeling of well-being. (Webster's)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by wilrobnson
                      My small piece of advice, gleaned from experience: If you're using two notebooks, keep all your work stuff in one, and your personal stuff in the other. DON'T MIX THE TWO. I've seen an officer who happened to scribble some work stuff in his personal notebook find his whole personal notebook in the defense lawyer's lap.
                      Good advice. Just remember that the personal one can be subpoenaed to. The plaintiff?s attorney may find out that you have two sets of books during the deposition. The lesson: Be extremely discreet as to what you document in the personal notebook. Remember Nixon. Whatever you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Especially since civil matters are decided on preponderance of the evidence as opposed to the higher requirement of beyond reasonable doubt in criminal cases.
                      Security: Freedom from fear; danger; safe; a feeling of well-being. (Webster's)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Mr Security, you have a valid point. When asked not to report a safety item again, I had the supervisor initial an entry that stated, "Security was asked to refrain from making additional entries and reports concerning stairwell #XX."
                        I was met by the area supervisor the next night when I reported for duty. His first question was why are you making such a big deal of reporting and having your supervisor initial your entry? My answer, "Sir, twofold. One, to fulfill my general orders and two, CYA."
                        There was no more said. The next day, the problem in the stairwell was corrected.
                        I agree with your analysis on not rocking the boat; however, you have an obligation both to yourself and to the company. Having a supervisor initial the entry you were not to report further on a particular deficiency, you are off the hook and the onus is on the company.
                        We should all try to leave as little "wiggle room" as possible. We must always call shots as we see them, but in the most professional manner as possible.
                        Enjoy the day,
                        Bill

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Bill Warnock
                          Having a supervisor initial the entry you were not to report further on a particular deficiency, you are off the hook and the onus is on the company.
                          I understand what you mean and I agree that if you can get your stupervisor, I mean supervisor to do that, then you are not negligent. Unfortunately, most supervisors in large security companies will bust a rib laughing if asked to sign off on that.
                          Security: Freedom from fear; danger; safe; a feeling of well-being. (Webster's)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Excellent information, but I would like to add that it is better to have a bound, numbered notebook. (They are available here---> http://www.triform.com/ )

                            They are of excellent quality, and it makes it much easier to provide evidence in court.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Warren
                              Excellent information, but I would like to add that it is better to have a bound, numbered notebook. (They are available here---> http://www.triform.com/ )

                              They are of excellent quality, and it makes it much easier to provide evidence in court.

                              ANYTHING IS BETTER THAN NUMBERING 150 SHEETS FRONT AND BACK YOURSELF.
                              Some Kind of Commando Leader

                              "Every time I see another crazy Florida post, I'm glad I don't work there." ~ Minneapolis Security on Florida Security Law

                              Comment

                              Leaderboard

                              Collapse
                              Working...
                              X