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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > April 2015 > Close Call Reporting: Why it’s Important for Officer Safety

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Close Call Reporting: Why it’s Important for Officer Safety

Have you been on a call at night and entered a dark building without a flashlight? Have you escorted a prisoner on your gun side? Have you almost been involved in a traffic accident because a civilian didn’t stop when your lights and sirens were activated? If you answered yes, you have been involved in a Close Call. 
Based on a theory by risk management expert Gordon Graham, for every 300 mistakes, there are 30 mishaps and one serious injury or lawsuit. The goal is to prevent the one serious injury through reports and discussion about the 330 close calls. Close Call reporting not only prevents injury, but can maintain a climate of safety, give law enforcement an open forum to discuss concerns, and raise awareness of issues affecting safety.
The Columbus Police Department was one of the first law enforcement agencies nationwide to implement a procedure for Close Call reporting. “It started as a tool to prevent officers from taking unnecessary risks and to track injuries,” said Kenneth Kuebler, deputy chief of police. “A few times a week, a discussion is led at roll call for about 10 minutes to discuss close calls and what could have been done differently. The sessions are non-punitive and used as a learning tool. This is not confession time,” said Kuebler. 
A description of the Close Call, root cause of the issue, preventative action, solution, and reapplication opportunities are recorded by shift supervisors and shared with the department's risk management staff. “For the precincts participating in the program, there has been a decline of officer-related injury,” Kuebler shared.
Due to its success, the Columbus Police Department approached the Ohio Attorney General’s Office (AGO) about bringing a Close Call reporting system statewide to assist all law enforcement agencies.
The Close Call Reporting Database was created to anonymously track incidents and provide quarterly reports for training. While the data are public, no agency or peace officer names are associated with the submission or report. “The only identifying information that is required is an agency ORI for submission, and that is to ensure the person submitting is part of Ohio law enforcement,” said James Burke, deputy director of Education and Policy at the Attorney General’s Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA).
Reports are published on the AGO website quarterly. The reports are categorized by type -- driving, building searches, communications, equipment, firearms, personnel, search & seizure, subject control, physical conditioning, situational awareness/unknown threat, legal, and other. The report gives a description, explanation of the cause, preventative action that could have been taken, and the agency’s solution. The report also provides the names of OPOTA courses available for training relevant to the Close Call.
For example, a Close Call recently reported involved officers responding to a domestic disturbance call. They found an angry crowd of people threatening each other. One man in the crowd was not subdued quickly enough and a fight broke out in front of the officers, who then had to use force against the man. It was determined that not controlling the instigator soon enough and not requesting back up as quickly as officers could have led to the Close Call. In the future, the agency emphasized the need to call for assistance without feeling that the call is a burden to another unit, as well as immediately taking control of such a scene. OPOTA identified “Lifeline Training: Warrior’s Edge” as a good training course to address this Close Call.
The 2014 Fourth Quarter report provides more than 65 unique Close Call situations that can be used for department training and discussion. “The most important part of Close Call is the discussion at the agency level. That is what prevents the injury,” added Burke.
The goal of Close Call is to prevent the one by talking about the 330. The AGO encourages all of Ohio’s law enforcement to participate in Close Call by submitting incidents to the database and implementing a Close Call policy.
Additional Resources:
Close Call Reporting Database
Model Close Call Reporting Policy and Procedure
Columbus, Ohio Division of Police
Graham Research Consultants