A “Public Safety Statement” is a statement an officer is required to give immediately after being involved in an officer-involved shooting, or other critical incident. It is important that officers understand what a “Public Safety Statement” is, and what it is not, so they can provide the best “Public Safety Statement” and preserve their rights going forward. “Public Safety Statements” are given to ensure the safety of the public after a critical incident by understanding the direction of fire, and whether or not there are outstanding suspects. Officers should be asked to answer very specific questions. A voluntary statement as to what happened, a rundown of what occurred, or the officer’s current state of mind is not to be given at this time.
Ward v City of Portland: “Public safety information may be immediately coerced without an attorney present if needs are compelling.” Supervisors should remind the officer that he/she does not have the right to remain silent about public safety issues. If that occurs, the following language is recommended: “Officer, I am ordering you to give me a Public Safety Statement. Due to the immediate need to take action, you do not have the right to wait for representation before answering questions limited to public safety issues.”
It is very important to remember that an officer-involved shooting is in fact a criminal investigation. Unlike an administrative matter where a non-lawyer union representative has privileges, an officer-involved in a shooting or other critical incident has no privilege of confidentiality with a non-lawyer. Therefore, it is important that all statements made related to the incident, outside of the “Public Safety Statement,” should only be made to a legal representative.
Public safety questions may include the following:
- What direction did you fire rounds?
- Where were you standing when you fired?
- How many rounds did you fire?
- If you know of anyone who is injured, where are they?
- If there are any outstanding suspects?
- What is their description?
- Do you have a suspect vehicle description?
- What is their direction of travel?
- How long have they been gone?
- For what crime(s) are they wanted?
- Are they still armed? If so, with what weapon(s)
- If there is any evidence that needs to be protected, where is it?