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Crime recording standards and Prosecuting offenders - stories from across the pond


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  • Crime recording standards and Prosecuting offenders - stories from across the pond

    Greetings from England.

    Been a cop for 6 years now, having policed Scotland for 4 and currently been in England for 2. Despite both these countries being part of the UK, they have very different legal systems and totally different policing powers and procedures.

    With the US being such a massive country with so many different law enforcement agencies, I was curious to hear from you about two main topics; crime recording, and, how you go about reporting offenders to your respective prosecuting bodies.

    This if how things are over here;

    Crime recording:
    In Scotland, officers decide whether there is enough evidence to record a crime, based on the legal definition and elements of an offence. Example; in order to establish a vandalism, you need to destroy/damage someone else's property either intentionally or recklessly, so if you say your neighbour broke a pot plant in your garden by kicking a football around in his back garden and it accidentally ended up over the fence, then we wouldn't class this as reckless as it wasn't aimed at your property and unless there is a witness stating the neighbour took a direct shot aiming towards the pot plant, there is insufficient evidence that the elements of the crime are met.

    In England however, while this used to the case until a few years ago, the only requirement now is that someone believes a crime has happened. Example; you walk down the street and hear someone shouting an obscenity, but can't see who and where it's from, if you think it was directed at you, it's crimed. As you can understand, this means England records a crime pretty much every time someone calls the Police and as such, crime recording standards mean absolutely nothing. I have recorded harassment crimes because someone believes their neighbour's dog barking is directly aimed at causing them anxiety and depression...

    Prosecuting offenders:
    In Scotland, if you have 2 bits of evidence, like two witness statements that both identify a crime and an offender, Police charge the named suspect with the relevant offence and report him to the Procurator Fiscal (the prosecuting body for criminal offences). You don't need to interview a suspect unless you only have one witness statement and no other corroboration. The purpose is to see if the suspect admits the offence (they very seldom do). If the Procurator Fiscal decides the matter is not suitable, it's up to them to decline prosecution. The case files for submission for 99% of volume crime can be completed in 2 hours with ease.

    In England, Police have discretion as to whether to report someone to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for very low level offences (shoplifting and non-injury assaults), citing the public interest test, but regardless of the abundance of evidence, all suspects need to be interviewed, all the evidence put to them and afford them the opportunity to provide a defence, or lack thereof. Police can only charge for the most minor of offences (mentioned previously), but for everything else, we are required to refer to the CPS by preparing a case-file that by most standards requires 6 to 8 hours as there are tons of forms and a great deal of needless repetition and duplication. Unless it's an exceptionally serious offence hat involves serious prison time, even in cases of overwhelming evidence, the CPS will normally decline to prosecute due to court costs, especially if the suspect doesn't fully admit to the crime. Basically, England is a criminal's paradise.

    What are things like in your local/state jurisdictions?

    Cheers for any replies guys and stay safe out there.

  • #2
    The only rule worth noting in US criminal justice procedures is that there are no rules to speak of.

    Reasonable suspicion, knowledge of facts or circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe that a crime may be taking place or about to take place, allows police to briefly detain individuals, require them to identify themselves, and seek explanation for whatever is occurring. Without reasonable suspicion there is no valid reason for an officer to intervene in a citizen's affairs or conduct.

    Probable cause, knowledge of facts or circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe that a crime has occurred and a particular individual committed that offense, is sufficient to detain or arrest the alleged violator.

    Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the standard applied in judicial proceedings to determine culpability for a criminal offense. The "finder of fact" may be a judge (elected or appointed) in minor offenses, or a jury in more serious matters. The findings of a jury must be unanimous in most cases, with either a guilty or not guilty returned to the court.

    Police officers are employed by individual towns and cities, by counties, or by state agencies. With 50 states (plus the various territories), over 3000 counties, and more than 40,000 municipal entities (cities and towns) there is no such thing as standardization. Most of the US states have adopted standards for peace officer certification or accreditation, but there are no national standards and no reciprocity. It is very unusual for law enforcement agencies to accept "transfers" within the law enforcement community; while occasionally a department may seek "lateral entry" applicants (experienced and/or certified officers via prior employment) the general rule is that when leaving one agency for employment with another agency one must start out at the bottom of the ladder and work upward from there.

    Prosecution of offenses is typically administered by a prosecuting attorney, typically elected by the citizens within a particular judicial district or county, occasionally appointed by a state attorney general, and those prosecutors oversee cases involving violations of state laws or local ordinances. Federal crimes (quite limited in scope) are prosecuted by the US Department of Justice via United States Attorneys appointed to serve within a particular state or federal district. Prosecutorial discretion is widely exercised, and many reported offenses are not prosecuted either because of a lack of clear and convincing evidence, or because of political considerations clouding the events.

    Elected district attorneys, states attorneys, and appointed US attorneys are very frequently political creatures intent on nothing more than building a career in the political arena.

    In many states judges are elected by popular vote, in other states judges are appointed (usually by the state governor), and such appointments may be limited by election terms or as lifetime positions with little or no recourse. In my state of residence (Colorado) judges are appointed by the state governor, but each election cycle (4 years) includes a ballot question for voters to decide whether or not to retain each appointed judge.

    I have spent some time in the UK. There is little comparison to be made between the UK and the US in regard to police duties, responsibilities, employment, pensions, benefit plans, etc, or between UK and US systems of prosecutions. I do not offer these comments as criticism of one over the other, only as a general advisement against any direct comparison.

    From my (limited) observations, UK police officers have a wide range of national authority along with many opportunities for lateral transfers within the police services of the various jurisdictions; certainly not the case in the US. UK officers are empowered with more ministerial or magisterial authorities than any US counterparts. If nothing else, the UK system of retirement benefits, health insurance benefits, etc, are not to be found anywhere in the United States.

    On point, crime reporting is generally accomplished at the local level with periodic (usually monthly) summaries submitted via state agencies for inclusion in the national Uniform Crime Reporting system administered by the US Department of Justice under the auspices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Various categories of crime are standardized, but there are significant differences in how individual agencies may report certain incidents. It is not unheard of for police administrators to "cook the books" a bit to see that the statistics associated with their administrations are not adverse to future career aspirations or budgetary concerns. (Can I say it more politely to convey the clear fact that some political critters will lie when it suits their purposes?)

    Best regards!
    Last edited by retired1995; 04-27-2020, 07:32 PM.


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