Wrap up: Never ever fudge your logbook entries
In last week's scenario, an officer was presented with the dilemma of either admitting he could not perform his duties completely, or forging his logbook to say he could
By Anthony Gangi, C1 Columnist
Last weeks' scenario had a conflict I’m sure we can all relate to. Budget cuts are happening across the board and employees are being burdened with the severe task of filling in the gaps to ensure sure policy and procedures are being followed. Unfortunately, this can lead to violations of policy, not purposely committed, but as a direct result of limited manpower.
In last week's scenario, Officer Williams must choose the lesser of two evils: Either he lies in the logbook, or admit that he cannot do his job effectively. Again, he is overburdened with a task due to budget cuts. On another note, the 15-minute close watch inmates are scattered throughout his unit as a way to ensure that he is doing his tours. This is unacceptable. The close watches should be placed close to each other, if possible, to help the officer in the performance of his duties.
There should be nothing given to the officer that presents a challenge in performing his duties. We stand together and any failure within can have an effect on the whole agency. Those in higher positions should limit the number of challenges an employee faces and assist them as best they can.
Logbooks are legal documentation
For this scenario, our main focus should be the logbook. The officer could always justify why he could not do his job effectively, but one thing he cannot do is justify a lie that he logged into the book. As ShelbieLB31 writes, "DO NOT, and I repeat, absolutely DO NOT forge times on a log sheet. That's worse than not doing them at all, in my own opinion. If you're doing your job to the best of your ability and you're logging that you're doing your rounds as often as you possibly can, you're covered.
“You're NOT covered for forging documentation. If an officer makes it aware to his supervisor that, realistically, he cannot do the 15-minute checks on the dot, then he's covered. He's reported the issue to the proper chain of command. Timesheets, chronological logs, 15-minute checks, are ALL legal documentation. If they don't match what the cameras are recording, that's a lawsuit waiting to happen. Do your job to the best of your ability.
“If you believe that it is a greater concern than your supervisor is letting on, contact the next in command. I would rather have all my bases covered than to discover a suicidal inmate has succeeded in an attempt because my supervisor didn't think it was that important to get me help."
The statement above is well said and right on the money: Do not lie on a legal document! As mentioned above, make it known to your supervisors why you are having an issue with the performance of your duties and put them on the defensive.
Logbooks will back you up
DBAIN28 also agreed with the above: "We all need to understand that a jail logbook can be used as a legal document and the reason why I would note what action I did/didn't take during my rounds/checks would be because if I note that a certain task couldn't be completed because lack of manpower in the unit and the supervisor was noted in the logbook as being away, if something happens in the unit and a court reads that information, I've found it helpful when questioned why something was allowed to go unchecked for so long.
"My point is, write it down and don't allow others to point the finger at you. I've been in a courtroom when an inmate was suing the state and my logbook saved me a number of times. Those officers who have been sued or in a courtroom testifying understand that; a logbook will save your life and job."
Document, document, document
"Log actual times and activities. Forge, fudge, and/or falsify absolutely nothing. Call your supervisor back, but don't say that your tasks are ‘overwhelming,’ which indicates that you may simply be incompetent. Tell him simply that it is not possible to perform these tasks in the time available. Ask him to accompany you on two 15-minute rounds, and then ask for his instructions on how and when you should perform your other duties. If he is worth his salt, he will go to his superior and lay out your case,” writes Centurion1950.
“If he isn't, you have a problem. So finally, write a memo, (preferably with a photocopy of your log entries for that shift if possible) documenting how and why you are not able to meet expectations. Write a new memo every shift you work in that unit, and send copies to those in your immediate chain of command. Retain copies of everything and also submit them to your union if you are in one. You may have to write these memos at home since time in your unit is at such a premium."
In closing, I believe lokie65 states its best: "Centurion1950 and ShelbieLB31 gave the best advice that any officer can get. If an officer follows their advice they will be covered and have documentation for any future actions against the officer. Kudos to both of them for sharing their experience and expertise!"
I can't agree with that more. This is a scenario that is now being presented to our staff. The above parties stated perfectly that the need to CYA is paramount. Lying in a logbook can never be justified, but doing your job to the best of your means can. Go with the advice presented by those who walk the walk. All responses are spot on and, if you find yourself in the same situation, this advice will help you alleviate your dilemma and place it back in the hands of those who created it.