PDA

View Full Version : Law enforcement: solo, partners, or teams?



melindamusil
05-07-2013, 10:24 AM
I'm specifically wondering about the US but it would be interesting to know his for other nations too.

Do law enforcement officers typically work solo, in pairs, or in larger teams?
How does it vary within the law enforcement community? ie city police vs Feds

I have this image a worked out on my head based on a trio of FBI agents, but at the same time I'm not sure if it would work. (Too many scenes where the agents are having to work solo, not the right balance of men and women for the story, etc.) I'm struggling to figure out if I should add a character, and if so, how to add a character, OR if I should change it from g-men to officers/detectives at a major city police department (like NYPD).

cornflake
05-07-2013, 10:34 AM
I'm specifically wondering about the US but it would be interesting to know his for other nations too.

Do law enforcement officers typically work solo, in pairs, or in larger teams?
How does it vary within the law enforcement community? ie city police vs Feds

I have this image a worked out on my head based on a trio of FBI agents, but at the same time I'm not sure if it would work. (Too many scenes where the agents are having to work solo, not the right balance of men and women for the story, etc.) I'm struggling to figure out if I should add a character, and if so, how to add a character, OR if I should change it from g-men to officers/detectives at a major city police department (like NYPD).

Depends completely on department, work, shift, etc.

What are the agents doing? You can have 10 agents working in one place; but there needs to be a reason for them to be there.

Also, what crime is it that you can just change from feds to cops?

ArcticFox
05-07-2013, 10:38 AM
My dad was a Vermont State Trooper (in the US) and he was always solo. He was a road warrior though, a patrol cop. The detectives usually worked alone as well. Vermont is a very small state, so that might have had something to do with it.

ironmikezero
05-07-2013, 07:48 PM
US federal agency criminal investigators typically work as partners (two-person team) in the field. That provides inherent corroboration in all aspects of the investigation (interviews, interrogations, execution of warrants, etc.) and immediate physical back up if needed. There are typically a number of such teams assigned to a squad or section who are well trained to function as a much larger cohesive unit when circumstances so dictate. Solo operations are somewhat more rare and tend to be specialized (i.e.; undercover, etc.) but are still closely monitored.

melindamusil
05-07-2013, 10:41 PM
US federal agency criminal investigators typically work as partners (two-person team) in the field. That provides inherent corroboration in all aspects of the investigation (interviews, interrogations, execution of warrants, etc.) and immediate physical back up if needed. There are typically a number of such teams assigned to a squad or section who are well trained to function as a much larger cohesive unit when circumstances so dictate. Solo operations are somewhat more rare and tend to be specialized (i.e.; undercover, etc.) but are still closely monitored.

Mike, this is what I was thinking. I don't know why my mind seems to be fighting it! Off to create a character!

jkenton
05-08-2013, 04:02 AM
"Solo" is usually the result of cutbacks and manpower shortages. Unless you're writing intentionally to the Dirty Harry/Lone Sheriff/Lawgiver angle, or wish you're setting to be one where the cops are dealing with a poorly funded agency. It's simply inefficient and unsafe, which compounds the inefficiency because dead or injured cops are expensive to replace. Now, if you want that sort of issue complicating your cop's life, want it as part of the environment, than go with it. (Personally, I find teams more interesting. It's generally more realistic and to me, the opportunities for character interaction and development are worth the extra work it takes to flesh out a team that isn't comprised of archetypes or tropes.)

As Ironmikezero pointed out, even an agent on some sort of long-term undercover assignment is going to have a handler, and a team backing that handler up. (A goodly bit of spy fiction has had the Lone Agent on a mission sooooo secret only his boss or handler knows about it, but that's becoming an increasingly used gimmick I fear.)

BradyH1861
05-08-2013, 04:41 AM
I work with a partner and though we aren't necessarily joined at the hip, we are in constant contact when working something.

jkenton
05-08-2013, 04:51 AM
I work with a partner and though we aren't necessarily joined at the hip, we are in constant contact when working something.

*Spots a chance to seize Enlearnment*

Would you mind telling us what type of agency/level of government you work for? Are staffing & funding issues, or does that situation work out well for the type of work you do?

melindamusil
05-08-2013, 05:36 AM
"Solo" is usually the result of cutbacks and manpower shortages. Unless you're writing intentionally to the Dirty Harry/Lone Sheriff/Lawgiver angle, or wish you're setting to be one where the cops are dealing with a poorly funded agency. It's simply inefficient and unsafe, which compounds the inefficiency because dead or injured cops are expensive to replace. Now, if you want that sort of issue complicating your cop's life, want it as part of the environment, than go with it. (Personally, I find teams more interesting. It's generally more realistic and to me, the opportunities for character interaction and development are worth the extra work it takes to flesh out a team that isn't comprised of archetypes or tropes.)

As Ironmikezero pointed out, even an agent on some sort of long-term undercover assignment is going to have a handler, and a team backing that handler up. (A goodly bit of spy fiction has had the Lone Agent on a mission sooooo secret only his boss or handler knows about it, but that's becoming an increasingly used gimmick I fear.)

This is exactly what I'm thinking. It just doesn't strike me as believable (most of the time) than an FBI agent (or any other law enforcement officer, for that matter) would go interview witnesses or possibly arrest someone or gather evidence without a partner. Except, like you said, in the case of a crooked cop.


I work with a partner and though we aren't necessarily joined at the hip, we are in constant contact when working something.

I'm also curious, Brady. What type/level of agency do you work for? What are some of the challenges and rewards of working with your partner that might not be so obvious to the rest of us?

BradyH1861
05-08-2013, 06:05 AM
I work for a city. My assignment is Arson. I actually have a dual background in the fire service first and then law enforcement. To be certified as an Arson Investigator, I have to maintain certifications in both.

Staffing and funding is above my pay grade. I've never had anyone question the time spent on a case or the staffing. We work with a partner since you can't adequately process a scene by yourself. We are assigned to work in pairs for that reason. And sometimes if it is a big scene, we call in help from our neighboring agencies.

If you get along well with your partner, then it is usually smooth sailing. There are some weeks that I am with my partner for longer than I am with my wife. My current partner and I have different personalities, but it works out because we each look at things in a slightly different way. It is tough to explain, but it works.

cornflake
05-08-2013, 06:37 AM
This is exactly what I'm thinking. It just doesn't strike me as believable (most of the time) than an FBI agent (or any other law enforcement officer, for that matter) would go interview witnesses or possibly arrest someone or gather evidence without a partner. Except, like you said, in the case of a crooked cop.

I'm also curious, Brady. What type/level of agency do you work for? What are some of the challenges and rewards of working with your partner that might not be so obvious to the rest of us?

These are all different jobs and situations you're talking about. Detectives often go out alone to interview witnesses or canvass. Lots of places run solo patrol cars, at least on certain shifts. It depends. Also, generally, evidence teams go out to gather evidence, not cops or agents.

jkenton
05-08-2013, 07:14 AM
This is exactly what I'm thinking. It just doesn't strike me as believable (most of the time) than an FBI agent (or any other law enforcement officer, for that matter) would go interview witnesses or possibly arrest someone or gather evidence without a partner. Except, like you said, in the case of a crooked cop.


Yeah, I see far too much TV where the Main Characters and a couple Blue Shirts go right in to take down the Aryan Warlord Crime Boss Meth Slave Factory/Mad Genius Serial Killer Cultist Sewing Shop of Horrors. Situations where that raid just wouldn't happen without teams of hard-core door-kickers.

To an extent, the Ticking Time Bomb can excuse not getting proper backup, but that's been rubbed real damn thin.

melindamusil
05-09-2013, 10:36 PM
These are all different jobs and situations you're talking about. Detectives often go out alone to interview witnesses or canvass. Lots of places run solo patrol cars, at least on certain shifts. It depends. Also, generally, evidence teams go out to gather evidence, not cops or agents.

Cornflake, you're right and these are all different situations. I suppose it would also depend on the crime being investigated - an old lady who was mugged vs. the theft of nuclear warheads, or something like that. And of course there are different "jobs" within the force... a traffic cop vs. a detective vs. security, that kind of thing. But you've given me plenty to think about, so I appreciate that.


Yeah, I see far too much TV where the Main Characters and a couple Blue Shirts go right in to take down the Aryan Warlord Crime Boss Meth Slave Factory/Mad Genius Serial Killer Cultist Sewing Shop of Horrors. Situations where that raid just wouldn't happen without teams of hard-core door-kickers.

To an extent, the Ticking Time Bomb can excuse not getting proper backup, but that's been rubbed real damn thin.

First off, thanks for making me laugh!

Yea, the scene where they're out of time and have to kick down a door to save humanity is a little old. Not impossible, I'm sure, but it should be a rare event and handled very carefully.

jkenton
05-10-2013, 02:07 AM
Cornflake, you're right and these are all different situations. I suppose it would also depend on the crime being investigated - an old lady who was mugged vs. the theft of nuclear warheads, or something like that. And of course there are different "jobs" within the force... a traffic cop vs. a detective vs. security, that kind of thing. But you've given me plenty to think about, so I appreciate that.



First off, thanks for making me laugh!

Yea, the scene where they're out of time and have to kick down a door to save humanity is a little old. Not impossible, I'm sure, but it should be a rare event and handled very carefully.

All part of the service.

Hendo
05-10-2013, 05:55 AM
It varies but usually the main factor is the population and "threat" levels of the area. My department was solo. The same with pretty much every other town in the entire state. But you get into the cities(in my area) and it starts doubling up. It has nothing to do with cutbacks. It's just more efficient because you can have better coverage and an increased presence. Some calls you'll go to only require one officer, others need more than one. We would always send 2 cars to something like a domestic(domestic violence) for example. Also remember that backup is only a radio call away.

Rowan
05-12-2013, 06:07 PM
I'm specifically wondering about the US but it would be interesting to know his for other nations too.

Do law enforcement officers typically work solo, in pairs, or in larger teams? That depends. Are you referring to local, state, or federal? Also, are you referring to patrol cops, federal agents, state narcotics officers, cyber crime units, or ??? It also will vary by jurisdiction and region. I'm a former DEA agent and we worked in teams. You're pretty much with your partner at all times (interviewing sources/defendants, serving subpoenas, etc.) except during surveillance, where most agents are alone in their respective cars for more coverage. But then you're still out with a team. As another example, my local PD units often work solo due to manpower--the patrol units that is.
How does it vary within the law enforcement community? ie city police vs Feds YES

I have this image a worked out on my head based on a trio of FBI agents, but at the same time I'm not sure if it would work. (Too many scenes where the agents are having to work solo, not the right balance of men and women for the story, etc.) I'm struggling to figure out if I should add a character, and if so, how to add a character, OR if I should change it from g-men to officers/detectives at a major city police department (like NYPD).

Are these FBI agents counter-terrorism, white collar crime or ???? What's the premise of the story?

In my personal experience, most feds work in pairs, quite often a senior agent with a junior agent but not always. I was on a task force comprised of federal agents, local / state PD LEOs so my partner was a local PD detective. We conducted all arrest and/or search warrants as a team, but you do things like interview sources or sit on a house with just your partner (or the latter by yourself). On the federal level, there are strict protocols in place, and for example, you never interview a source by yourself. However, the local/state PD's differ vastly in their requirements. I hope that helps.

WeaselFire
05-13-2013, 07:06 PM
The majority of street or patrol level officers/deputies work solo. Better coverage and backup is usually easily available.

Partners are where a case may require more legwork and manpower. Major Crimes divisions, such as Homicide, Sexual Assault, etc. may worm in partners or teams. Teams are often temporary, formed for a specific task (task force) and disbanded once that objective is achieved.

Smaller departments are almost always solo for 99% of their work, again, with backup available.

Jeff