Police departments all over the country – including here in Alabama – are experiencing an unprecedented staffing problem. They can’t get enough applicants, and retaining those recruits they are able to get has become increasingly difficult.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police have gone so far as to label the issue “a crisis for law enforcement.” The authorities variously blame the problem on everything from the increased levels of violence being seen around the nation and the “current political climate,” (although proponents of police reform would say that’s code for the increased accountability being demanded by citizens from those carrying badges).
How do police staffing problems negatively affect defendants?
In any job situation where you have a high turnover rate and a lot of empty positions, you’re going to end up with some employees who are stressed and tired and others who simply don’t have a lot of experience on the job. Both groups are prone to mistakes.
When it comes to criminal investigations, those mistakes can include things like:
- ● Conducting stops without reasonable suspicion
- ● Conducting stops based on a misunderstanding of the law
- ● Conducting searches or arrests without consent, a warrant or probable cause
- ● Exaggerating evidence to obtain a search warrant
- ● Searching for and seizing items that were beyond the scope of a warrant
- ● Neglecting to inform someone about their Miranda rights when required
- ● Leaving important details out of police reports about the crime scene, the evidence, witness statements or the defendant’s demeanor
- ● Failing to properly secure a crime scene in order to protect evidence
- ● Failing to package and preserve evidence correctly with all necessary documentation
- ● Failing to maintain a proper chain of custody for evidence
- ● Failing to properly interview all witnesses or document the conversations
In short, whether they’re just overworked or completely inexperienced, an officer’s mistake can greatly impact a defendant’s life – but those mistakes can also be the key to a sound defense strategy. Given the situation, it’s more important than ever to have experienced legal guidance when you’re charged with a crime.