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Understanding anonymous complaints

 

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A great number of complainants wish to remain anonymous for various reasons. Understandably, everyone wants immediate action. This is perfectly fine, but people need to understand that an anonymous call is handled differently, as compared to one where a caller has identified him- or herself and files a statement.

First, everyone needs to understand that an anonymous call is not treated with less importance because it is anonymous. All calls are investigated. An anonymous call does, however, slow the process down a bit.

A complainant can become frustrated because it appears that nothing has been done about their complaint and assume it is because they requested anonymity. This is not true.

If an officer did not personally witness the offense, and there are no other identified witnesses or complainant, then there is no cause to file charges based on an anonymous complaint because there are no witnesses or evidence to support the charge.

An officer must now independently obtain evidence or probable cause to investigate further.

For example, an officer cannot immediately write a ticket based on an anonymous complainant that a parked vehicle has not moved for over a month. Because the complaint is anonymous, the officer has no proof (witness) that it has been parked longer than a month and must then independently obtain evidence that it has been parked longer than permitted.

Typically, an officer will mark a tire and wait to see if it has been move within five days. If the vehicle has not moved after five days, the officer will write a warning. If it has not moved after five days following the warning, the officer will write a ticket. In this case, the process of corroborating an anonymous complaint or obtaining supporting evidence can take nearly two weeks before we see results.

Another example would be an anonymous complaint of a nuisance barking dog. If the dog is no longer barking when the officer arrives on scene, then the officer has no evidence to support writing a ticket. The evidence needed would have been a statement from an identified complainant (witness).

If complainants identify themselves and file a statement as a witness to the violation, the matter can be resolved much sooner. Otherwise, please understand that it will take a little more time to resolve the matter.

(Jerry Nystrom is chief of police for the city of Havre.)

A great number of complainants wish to remain anonymous for various reasons. Understandably, everyone wants immediate action. This is perfectly fine, but people need to understand that an anonymous call is handled differently, as compared to one where a caller has identified him- or herself and files a statement.

First, everyone needs to understand that an anonymous call is not treated with less importance because it is anonymous. All calls are investigated. An anonymous call does, however, slow the process down a bit.

A complainant can become frustrated because it appears that nothing has been done about their complaint and assume it is because they requested anonymity. This is not true.

If an officer did not personally witness the offense, and there are no other identified witnesses or complainant, then there is no cause to file charges based on an anonymous complaint because there are no witnesses or evidence to support the charge.

An officer must now independently obtain evidence or probable cause to investigate further.

For example, an officer cannot immediately write a ticket based on an anonymous complainant that a parked vehicle has not moved for over a month. Because the complaint is anonymous, the officer has no proof (witness) that it has been parked longer than a month and must then independently obtain evidence that it has been parked longer than permitted.

Typically, an officer will mark a tire and wait to see if it has been move within five days. If the vehicle has not moved after five days, the officer will write a warning. If it has not moved after five days following the warning, the officer will write a ticket. In this case, the process of corroborating an anonymous complaint or obtaining supporting evidence can take nearly two weeks before we see results.

Another example would be an anonymous complaint of a nuisance barking dog. If the dog is no longer barking when the officer arrives on scene, then the officer has no evidence to support writing a ticket. The evidence needed would have been a statement from an identified complainant (witness).

If complainants identify themselves and file a statement as a witness to the violation, the matter can be resolved much sooner. Otherwise, please understand that it will take a little more time to resolve the matter.

(Jerry Nystrom is chief of police for the city of Havre.)

 
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