402 – Significant Incident Notifications

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Purpose

This policy establishes notification requirements for any employee involved in a significant incident as identified herein. It also establishes guidelines to facilitate appropriate and timely notification of Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) command and support personnel concerning significant incidents, crime scenes, and various events. [CALEA Standard 11.3.3]

Definitions

Business Hours: Monday through Friday, 8 A.M. to 5 P.M.

Disaster: A catastrophe that threatens extraordinary loss of life or property (e.g., severe weather, hazardous material accidents, large fires, explosions, terrorist incidents, etc.).

Extended Pursuit: Motorized vehicle or foot chase of a suspect exceeding twenty (20) minutes in duration.

Real Time Notification: Electronically produced e-mail transmission to designated personnel.

Serious Bodily Injury: Bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ.

Serious Injury: Injury that requires extensive medical treatment or hospitalization.

Significant Incident: Any event that is likely to result in substantial media or public attention or may require additional administrative action.

Policy

HCSO personnel will contact the Communications Division to report any significant incident. The Communications supervisor will then make the required notifications to command and support personnel. Any sworn or civilian employee made aware of a significant incident will immediately inform his or her supervisor, and the supervisor will notify the Communications Division. In the absence of a supervisor, the senior employee on the scene will have this responsibility. Information will be transmitted to the Communications Division as soon as it becomes available, and updates will be provided. Notifications will not be delayed due to incomplete or unavailable information.

If an incident occurs that exhibits the propensity to develop into any significant local or national media incident, regardless of the situation, the involved employee shall immediately notify the Communications Division, and the division will make appropriate command notifications.

The situations cited within this directive generally address the most common incidents and circumstances. However, the involved employee and the Communications supervisor must be able to analyze the nature and potential outcome of an incident and make the appropriate notifications based upon the requirements in this procedure.

HCSO Communications Division Notifications

The following are examples of incidents where designated members of the HCSO command staff shall be notified via real time notification procedures. In each confirmed incident, the appropriate personnel will be immediately notified by the Communications Division supervisor.

Significant Incidents

  1. Serious injury or death of any employee, on or off duty, for any reason;
  2. Discharge of a firearm by an employee resulting in injury or death to any person;
  3. Serious injury or death of a prisoner, inmate, suspect in custody, or any person that may be the result of or involve actions by HCSO personnel;
  4. Escape of an inmate, prisoner, or suspect in HCSO custody from any location;
  5. Any validated act of terrorism occurring within the regional Harris County area;
  6. Any high profile incident or threat of serious bodily injury or death involving an employee, dignitary, foreign government representative, or public official to include their family members;
  7. Any incident that involves the following except while engaged in training or lawful recreation:
    • Any discharge of a firearm by an employee (non-injury),
    • Any use of force deployment of a TASER by an employee, whether or not the use was effective or ineffective on the subjects.
    • In the event of an accidental deployment of a TASER, the user will immediately notify the appropriate on-duty supervisor and initiate a report. No use of force report is necessary for an accidental deployment.
    • Any use of OC spray by an employee, or
    • Any use of an impact weapon by an employee.
  8. Deployment of operational support units (Special Weapons and Tactics, Bomb Squad with a validated incendiary explosive device, Air Support Unit, Mobile Command Posts).

Other Incidents

  1. Notifications and call-out for other law enforcement actions, incidents, or investigations will be in accordance with HCSO and bureau policies.
  2. Additional command staff notifications will be made by the Communications Division supervisor at the request of the on-scene Patrol supervisor or at the direction of any bureau commander.

Procedure

Significant incident notifications

Any HCSO employee involved in a significant incident (on or off duty) shall promptly notify his or her immediate supervisor and the HCSO Communications Division.

The on-duty first line supervisor will respond to the scene of all significant incidents to assess the situation and determine what support personnel will be required (e.g., Crime Scene Unit, Criminal Investigations Bureau, etc.). First line scene response will typically be accomplished by a Patrol Bureau supervisor for field incidents or a Criminal Justice Command supervisor for detention-related incidents.

Once the on-scene supervisor determines the preliminary facts and resources needed, the Communications Division supervisor shall be contacted, provided a brief summary of the incident, and requested to make the appropriate notifications to support personnel and appropriate command staff. Real-time electronic notifications will be immediately made to designated command staff personnel identified within this directive.

The Communications supervisor will initiate an incident notification by composing an electronic message.

E-mail notification: provides a real-time preliminary synopsis of the significant incident. The e-mail will include the following incident information:

  • Incident type
  • Incident preliminary synopsis
  • Location
  • Supervisor on the scene
  • All significant incident notifications will be sent via e-mail.
  • The Communications Division supervisor shall make direct voice contact with the Sheriff via telephone for any significant incident involving the death of an employee (on or off duty).
  • The Communications supervisor will inform on-call support personnel that the on-scene supervisor has requested their response. Other personnel will respond as directed by their bureau commander or designee.

NOTE: Only investigators or supervisors in the Criminal Investigations Bureau may request Medical Examiner response to a scene. Vehicular Crimes Division personnel may request Medical Examiner response to those scenes under the investigative purview of the Vehicular Crimes Division.

Notifications for specific significant incidents

Serious injury or death of any employee, on or off duty, for any reason;

Discharge of a firearm by an employee resulting in injury or death to any person; or

Serious bodily injury or death of a prisoner, inmate, suspect in custody, or any person that may be the result of or involve actions by HCSO personnel:

Required Notifications
  1. Sheriff (Communications will contact personally via telephone for death of employee)
  2. All command staff if serious bodily injury or death of employee
  3. Involved employee’s bureau commander and division commander
  4. Criminal Investigations Bureau commander and appropriate on-call investigations personnel
  5. Office of Inspector General (OIG) bureau commander and on-call OIG lieutenant
  6. Medical director (if death of incarcerated person)
  7. Crime Scene Unit
  8. District Attorney’s Office
  9. County Attorney’s Office
  10. Public Information Officer
  11. Family Assistance Unit
  12. Any other notifications requested by the on-scene Patrol supervisor

Death or serious bodily injury subsequent to any vehicle pursuit

Required Notifications
  1. Sheriff
  2. Involved employee’s bureau commander and division commander
  3. OIG bureau commander and on-call OIG lieutenant
  4. Vehicular Crimes Division
  5. Crime Scene Unit, if requested
  6. Public Information Officer
  7. County Attorney’s Office
  8. Any other notifications requested by the on-scene supervisor

Escape from custody

If a prisoner escapes from HCSO custody, the deputy or supervisor in charge shall notify the Communications Division supervisor immediately and provide the escapee’s identification information and direction and mode of travel.

The Communications Division will broadcast a “Be On Lookout For” (BOLO), dispatch additional HCSO units to the scene to assist, and prepare a TLETS / NLETS teletype message.

The broadcast should contain as much of the following information as possible:

  • Inmate or prisoner’s name
  • Date of birth
  • Physical description, including civilian clothing if not wearing HCSO-issued inmate clothing
  • Location last seen and direction and mode of travel
  • HCSO SPN, if applicable
  • Any other pertinent information (e.g., armed suspect, whether the suspect had or had not been booked, list of outstanding charges, etc.)
Required Notifications (in the following order):
  1. Local municipal police department if the escape occurred within an incorporated city’s jurisdiction
  2. Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force and Warrants Division commander
  3. Crime Scene Units (as requested)
  4. Canine Units (as requested)
  5. Sheriff
  6. Involved employee’s bureau commander and division commander
  7. Criminal Investigations Bureau commander and appropriate on-call investigations personnel
  8. OIG bureau commander and on-call OIG lieutenant
  9. Public Information Officer

Validated act of terrorism or catastrophic event occurring within the regional Harris County area, including: the actual explosion of an incendiary explosive device (IED), major explosion affecting industry or commerce, natural disaster, or other incidents as deemed appropriate.

The HCSO Homeland Security and Emergency Management “All-Hazards Plan” will be implemented in coordination with the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Required Notifications
  1. Sheriff
  2. Homeland Security Bureau commander
  3. Sheriff’s special assistant
  4. Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (Emergency Management Coordinator or on-call personnel)
  5. Patrol Bureau commander and appropriate division commander
  6. Patrol Support Bureau commander and appropriate division commander
  7. Criminal Investigations Bureau commander and appropriate on-call investigations personnel
  8. Public Information Officer
  9. Bomb Squad (as requested)
  10. Crime Scene Unit (as requested)
  11. Mobile Command Post (as requested)
  12. Any other notifications requested by the on-scene Patrol supervisor

Any high profile incident or threat of serious bodily injury or death involving an employee, dignitary, foreign government representative, or public official to include their family members:

Required Notifications:
  1. Sheriff
  2. Sheriff’s special assistant
  3. Involved employee’s bureau commander and division commander
  4. Criminal Investigations Bureau commander and appropriate on-call investigations personnel (as requested)
  5. OIG bureau commander and on-call OIG lieutenant
  6. Public Information Officer

Any incident that involves the following, except while engaged in training or lawful recreation:

  • Any discharge of a firearm
  • Any deployment of a TASER by an employee
  • Any use of OC spray by an employee
  • Any use of an impact weapon by an employee
Required Notifications:
  1. Involved employee’s watch commander
  2. On-call OIG lieutenant (only for discharge of a firearm by an employee, excluding extermination of an animal)

NOTE: The employee’s watch commander shall be responsible for ensuring the event is properly documented and notifying the division commander if deemed appropriate.

The OIG bureau or division commander shall be responsible for notifying the Sheriff if deemed appropriate.

Support Unit Request and Notifications – Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), Hostage Negotiations Team, Air Support Unit

The first supervisor on scene shall determine the need to request a response from a support function (SWAT, Hostage Negotiations Team, Air Support Unit).

If the Patrol supervisor requests SWAT or the Hostage Negotiations Team, the Communications Division supervisor will contact the Patrol Bureau commander and request authorization for the deployment of SWAT. If approved, the Communications supervisor will make the required notifications. Reference HCSO Policy #412, “Tactical Response Call-out Procedures (SWAT),” and Policy #414, “Hostage Negotiations Team.”

If the Patrol supervisor requests a fixed-wing aircraft or helicopter for air support, the Communications supervisor will immediately contact the Homeland Security Bureau Air Support Unit.

Required Notifications
  1. Patrol Bureau commander and appropriate division commander (SWAT, Hostage Negotiations Team, helicopter call-out)
  2. Homeland Security division commander (fixed-wing aircraft)
  3. Public Information Officer
  4. Any other notifications requested by on-scene Patrol supervisor

NOTE: The Patrol Bureau commander shall be responsible for notifying the Sheriff if deemed appropriate.

Bomb Threats

  1. Once Patrol units determine that there is a validated incendiary explosive device, the on-scene supervisor will contact the Communications Division supervisor to request the HCSO Bomb Squad to respond.
  2. If the HCSO Bomb Squad is unavailable, the supervisor may request assistance from an outside agency bomb squad. The Communications Division supervisor will request a response from an outside agency.
Required Notifications
  1. Bomb Squad (outside agencies: Houston PD, Pasadena PD)
  2. Crime Scene Unit, if requested
  3. Homeland Security Bureau commander and division commander
  4. Appropriate division commander
  5. Public Information Officer

NOTE: The Homeland Security Bureau commander shall be responsible for notifying the Sheriff if deemed appropriate.

Mobile Command Post

The Mobile Command Post (MCP) is designed for use as the incident command center and control point for communications between the designated incident commander, the HCSO Communications Division, and the units involved in a specific incident.

The MCP may, at the request of the on-scene supervisor, respond to the following types of incidents:

  1. Crowd control incidents
  2. Disaster sites
  3. Search sites
  4. Hostage situations
  5. SWAT situations
  6. Chemical spills
  7. Explosions
  8. Other scenes as deemed necessary and appropriate
  9. Upon receipt of a request for MCP deployment, the Communications Division supervisor will notify the Communications Division commander who will assess the request for deployment and contact the on-scene supervisor.

Upon deployment, the Communications Division supervisor will make appropriate notifications.

Required Notifications
  1. MCP operations sergeant
  2. Patrol Support Bureau commander
  3. Communications Division commander
  4. Patrol Bureau commander and appropriate division commander
  5. Homeland Security Bureau commander and division commander (as appropriate for incident type)
  6. Public Information Officer
  7. Any other notifications requested by the on-scene supervisor

NOTE: The Patrol Support Bureau commander shall be responsible for notifying the Sheriff if deemed appropriate.

Extended Pursuit (Non Injury)

Required Notifications
  1. Appropriate division commander
  2. Public Information Officer

NOTE: The Patrol Bureau division commander shall be responsible for notifying the bureau commander if deemed appropriate.

Significant Incident Report

At the end of the shift, the Communications Division night watch supervisor shall electronically generate a daily significant incident report to designated recipients. If there have been no significant incidents on any shift for the previous 24 hours, a notation will be entered to reflect such.

The report shall include:

  • Incident nature and case number
  • Brief description of each incident
  • Location of each incident
  • Supervisor on scene or incident commander
  • Location of command post, if applicable

Significant Incident Report Recipients:

  1. Sheriff
  2. Chief deputy and assistant chief deputy
  3. Sheriff’s special assistant
  4. All bureau majors
  5. All bureau division captains
    • Division captains shall be responsible for disseminating information contained in the report to members of their respective command as they deem necessary.
  6. Public information officer

Revision

This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

April 21, 2009

June 12, 2009

October 6, 2015

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