I originally wrote this post for a software company’s blog in 2014. This company was bought out and recently their blog and website have been removed from the web permanently. I am reposting it here for posterity.
At the end of 2013 I decided to spend this year writing a series of posts that I hoped would help new crime analysts or analysts from small agencies who may not have had a lot of formal training in crime analysis. I hoped that I could pass on some useful tips that would help them to become an asset to their agency.
Back before I started this series, I sent an email out to the membership of the International Association of Crime Analysts and solicited topics that they felt were important for a beginning analyst. One of the suggestions I received was "how to communicate and relate to police officers".
I was pretty fortunate in that I was a police officer for 14 years before I gave up the badge and gun and became a crime analyst. Working both sides gave me some insights into how the other side views things. While there are all types of people with a lot of different personalities that get into police work there are a few generalities that you can apply and come up with some tips on how to communicate and get along with your officers.
One, Be economical with the things you ask your officers to do. Your records management system software or offense report forms have lots of fields to fill out or boxes to check off. While it's pretty easy to create a new form for the officers to complete, you should first ask yourself: Do I really need this information? There is a difference between 'nice to have' and 'need to have'. You'd be surprised at the staggering number of forms, affidavits, etc. that your officers have to complete in the course of a shift. If at all possible, don't add to that unless it's absolutely necessary.
Two, Don't wait for your officers to ask for your assistance. Often times there are things you can do much more easily than your officers or detectives. Searching for related cases or cases with similar M.O.'s is one example. Cops are taught to be self sufficient. They often won't ask for your help or just assume that you're too busy. If you can easily help them out, just do it. Speaking of that, remember the old adage: If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. If they are willing and you will take time to show your officers how to accomplish a relatively simple task such as searching your records management system, they will love you for it.
Three, Don't presume to boss them around. Cops are used to being in control. Their command presence is often the thing that keeps a run of the mill disturbance call from spiraling out of control and turning into a real donnybrook. If they perceive you as telling them what to do, they could resent it and will not be very likely to do it. Better to make suggestions. A favorite line I use in my crime bulletins is "Officers coming into contact with this subject should do X" or "Officers may wish to investigate further".
Four, Be concise in your communications. If you create a crime bulletin, try to keep it to one page. Remember, they will likely print these out and stick them in the their clipboard or under the visor of their squad car. A multi-page tome just to say there's a roof top burglar operating in a certain part of town is a waste and will likely end up in the round file. I try to include a summary paragraph, usually in bold font, with the most important details. Tell them what they need to know and nothing more.
Five, Know your place. Yes, a crime analyst is a valuable part of a modern police agency but in the end they would do away with you before they would do away with police officers. You are there to assist your officers if making the community they serve safer. Enable them to be more efficient, to be more responsive, and more effective at their jobs and you have done your job. Be satisfied with that supporting role. It's really not a bad place to be.
What other things would you include?