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Problem with Retail Loss Prevention "Creative Writing"?

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  • Problem with Retail Loss Prevention "Creative Writing"?

    Hey everyone, I've been reading this forum for a few weeks now and figured it was time to post a question of my own.

    I've been working retail Loss Prevention for almost a year now, and as I put more thought into becoming a reserve police officer after law school, I find myself wondering if I'll have any issues regarding the "creative writing" I've always been told to use in writing apprehension reports.

    Most retailers require Loss Prevention to possess a number of elements before making a shoplifting apprehension, among them witnessing the subject actually select the merchandise. In many cases we don't see the person early enough to see selection, but have everything else to indicate a shoplift. As a typical example, we don't see the subject select 8 pairs of Levi's Jeans, but see him go to a secluded corner, pull an empty bag out of his coat, bag the pants, and then quickly walk out the door.

    In these cases, it is standard for the store detective to write in his report that he actually did witness selection of the merchandise, since without this element charges usually won't be filed and the store will come after him for not following policy. This is common in every retail Loss Prevention dept. I've ever known, and everyone from store detectives to regional managers knows this is how it is done. I've also had officers hint that they know our reports might have filled in a blank or two, but have never had a problem. I have no doubt they know how this works as well.

    My question is, will this way of writing reports be a problem when I apply for a reserve officer position? I know it might come under an example of "Not Following Policy", but it seems to be the common sense and normal way of doing things for most retail Loss Prevention. It's next to impossible to follow all the guidelines perfectly, and I've had a shoplifter with $1,200 worth of merchandise go free with a trespass notice because I played it perfectly straight and wrote that I had not actually witnessed selection of anything, although anyone with a drop of common sense could take one look at the videotape and tell what was going on.

    I should clarify that it is not as though we make up the report from start to finish, just the area where selection actually occurred. I'm also not referring to creatively writing reports if I were to become a reserve PO, only the reports that I currently write as a store detective.

  • #2
    I would look at this as swearing to something you know is untrue. And yes, that would be an enormous problem, in my opinion.

    It doesn't matter to me if your manager told you to do it, or if "everyone else does it." You are an adult, you have the ability to make a choice, and you damn sure know you shouldn't lie on an arrest report. It goes to your credibility.

    You should write down exactly what happened and leave it up to the police to determine if there is probable cause to make the arrest.

    If you worked in my town and I found out you made stuff up and swore to it on your statement, not only would I refuse to take any statements from you in the future, but you also might be looking at an arrest for False Statement.
    Cogito ergo summopere periculosus.

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    • #3
      I worked LP for more than three years before going into Corrections. I had a couple of situations like this come up where it would have been a great apprehension, had I been willing to do what you describe. The thing that always stopped me was this thought: If this goes to court, am I willing to commit perjury over someone stealing something that isn't even mine? The answer was always no, every single time. In addition, if you had a situation like the above, and BG was found not guilty because you admitted to "creative writing", the prosecutor could conceivably file charges on you for false reporting. I'd say don't do it, ever.
      1*

      Ten dash eight!

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      • #4
        While working LP I also had several situations that all you would see was them walking around and then conceal and leave. Did I take those cases. You Bet i did. The way I see and understand selection is that If you can reasonably believe that that merch is yours and has not been paid for ,you have selection. Meaning when Subjects would pile up on jeans ect. I would zoom in to the tag, Noting it was our merch. Then look for ink tags and the such, implying that it hasn't been paid for. Then when they pull a bag outta there shorts and load up well there ya go. The intent is all there. Like you said any idiot with some common sense would know they just stole the merch. Also to add to my case i would go back and look at the area were the merch was and locate the empty spot were they took them from. However I don't believe I ever lied in my reports. That was one of the reasons I quit LP. My supervisor was wanting me to lie. I however became a cop with no Prob. And during my BI the issue of any reports or crimes i prosecuted never came up.,.

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