Words That Should Never Appear In Your Police Report
You know what I mean. You know it when you see it, but it is hard to define. Look at TV and movie stars. We all know who is pretty or handsome. What makes it so? We all agree, but we cannot describe it. We can point to examples. If you have the talent, you can draw it. Most people do not know what it is, but most of us fail to really think about it.
Well, here it is. It is organization. When you look at a person, your brain values the organization of the face. Is it balanced? Are the eyes even? Are the ears the right size for the head? Are the features balanced? This is a similar approach as police report writing software, which looks for organization and balance.
Back to our police reports. What is it that the supervisor is subconsciously picking up on in your report? It is the organization. If it is not organized, the supervisor sees it. So how do you fix it? Get organized!
Ten Tips For Writing Reports Efficiently
Try using these 10 tips the next time you write a police report, and youll be able to complete your paperwork more quickly and efficiently. And thats only one of the benefits. Anyone who reads your report will be impressed by your professionalism and writing ability. You will have avoided outdated wordiness that characterizes so much police writing.
1. Use names and pronouns when you write about yourself and others at the scene. Avoid outdated expressions like this officer and the abovementioned witness or victim 1.
In the past some officers were taught that impersonal terminology guaranteed objectivity and accuracy. Not true! You have the same integrity whether youre calling yourself I or this officer. And think about this: if you were testifying in court, and sworn to tell the truth, you would use everyday language in your testimony. Follow the same practice in your reports.
2. Limit yourself to one idea per sentence.
Short, straightforward sentences are easy to read and understand, saving time for everyone. The longer a sentence is, the more likely you are to make an error.
3. Start every sentence with a person, place, or thing.
Normal sentence structure in English begins with a noun, and the grammar is simple: Just put a period at the end. Complicated sentences, on the other hand, require complicated punctuation, and they open the door to sentence errors.
4. Try to limit yourself to three commas per sentence.
5. Be as clear and specific as possible.
Are Police Reports Confidential
It depends on the governing laws of the state. Generally, police reports are considered public records and certain records should be made accessible to the public. However, some sensitive information or cases require discretion and may not be readily or easily disclosed without proper authorization.
Crimes can range from petty misdemeanors to major offenses. Whether its a traffic violation, a robbery with assault, or a double homicide, police reports are crucial in establishing the facts needed to help an investigation move forward and ultimately, preserve justice and order. Browse any of the printable templates and downloadable samples above to help you get started on your report!
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Damage/ Mischief To Property
Has someone damaged, defaced or vandalized public or private property? This may include:
- Breaking windows, mailboxes, throwing eggs, spray painting, writing or drawing on property.
- Accepted only if there are no known suspects.Please Note: If you were a victim of graffiti vandalism, paint vouchers and graffiti wipes are available for pick up at Police Headquarters.
Information To Include In Your Witness Statement
If you decide to report the crime to the police, they will need all the details you can remember. The police will ask you questions including:
- Your name, address and contact number
- The exact time and location where the crime took place
- Names and addresses of the people involved, if you know them
- A description of each of the people who were involved in the crime – hair color and length, build/weight, height, female or male and race
- A description of what you saw
- If a vehicle was involved, the licence plate number, color and type of vehicle and any injuries
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How Long Will It Take To Get A Copy Of A Report Once It Is Requested
- In most cases, if you attend in person to obtain a report, it will be prepared while you wait. If the report is incomplete , it will be released to you when it is completed. There may be an additional wait time for archived reports.
- Requests by mail will be responded to by mail as promptly as possible.
Simple Ways To Instantly Improve Your Report Writing
Tactics keep you alive, but report writing keeps you out of trouble
This article is part of a series, Report Writing for a New Generation: Merging Technology with Traditional Techniques, which covers general police report writing skills along with plain English instruction, professional and technical writing best practices, and how technology is changing the way officers write.
The series is exclusive content for Police1 members. Not a member? Register here. It is free and easy!
Last year, I attended a weeklong regional technical training course tailored for first-line supervisors. The course covered best practices in managing large-scale chaotic scenes and conducting after-action reviews. After the training, I spoke to one of the instructors, a retired LEO, for more information on after-action reports. I was quickly met with an interesting and borderline discouraging comment: “Officer’s don’t care about reports they care about tactics. Focus on tactics, and someone else will do the after-action report.”
“Officers don’t care about reports they care about tactics.” Was that statement true?
My colleagues were in the same boat: lots of tactics training with little to no police report writing training.
Tactics keep you alive, but a well-written police report keeps you out of trouble however, report writing is something most agencies dismiss as an important officer survival skill.
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Business Or Project Report
Business report writing is an assignment which the writer or researcher is required to analyze a situation while using standard management theories to arrive at some recommendations for an improved result.
An example, within a business organization, can be when workers are evaluated or when another company is studied. In essence, we can have a report as a tool used in a research study or in a scientific field.
Where Should I Begin The Police Report
For the writer, the incident starts when they first arrive on the scene. For the victim, it is when they first realize they are the victim. For the witness, it is when they first see the action that makes them a witness. Of course, for the suspect, it is when they make that conscious decision to commit the crime. True chronological order means the order in which the events actually occurred.
Many reports begin this way:
While on patrol, I received a call to . Upon my arrival, I spoke to the victim, who said…
This format is told in the order in which the events occurred to the writer. It can work and has worked since report writing began, in simple cases with few principles, facts and evidence. In these cases, it is easy to use and can be understood fairly well.
The problems in clarity occur when there are multiple principals, a significant amount of evidence and events occurred over a longer time period of time.
You know youre having problems organizing the report when it’s unclear where or how to begin the report.
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Start With A Terrible Example
I begin by showing my students what a poorly written report looks like. I used the In Public Safety website to help me understand how a police report should be written. This is where I found my favorite poorly-written report: Nailed, jailed, and bailed. While I appreciate the clever use of parallel structure and brevity, its clearly lacking in detailed information.
I ask the students what crime was committed and by whom. They obviously cant answer either and so we get to the basics of what must be included in the report: who, what, where, when, how, and why.
How To Write A Report For A Formal Or Academic Occasion
If you are immersed in academic, research, or the business world, it is likely that sooner or later , you will have to face the task of report writing. Therefore, knowing how to write a report can save your life.
Here you can find a practical guide which will help you know the appropriate techniques needed in writing a report so that it will comply with standards. If you follow these steps to the letter, you will not only learn the art of making a report, but you will be the best at it.
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Making A Witness Statement And Who Gets A Copy
Police may audio or video tape you when you are giving your statement. They may ask you to write down what you told them or they may write it for you.
Police will ask you to read the statement and sign it. It is important that you read the written statement and confirm it is completely accurate before you sign it because you may be asked about it as a witness in court. If you realize that you missed something after you signed the statement, provide the information to police as soon as you can. You can ask for a copy of your statement.
Some of the questions the police ask may make you feel uncomfortable. You may wonder why they are important. But things that do not seem important to you do end up helping police arrest someone.
A copy of the witness statement is usually given only to Crown and defence counsel, who can ask questions about your statement at the trial. Defence counsel will likely give a copy of the witness statement to the accused as they prepare for trial.
When Should I Call Police Instead
- If you have a known suspect. If you know the name or address of the suspect, or if you know the license plate of the vehicle associated to the suspect, please contact Peel Regional Police at 905-453-3311
- If the value of theft, loss or property damage is more than $10,000.00
- If your vehicle has been stolen
- If the incident occurred outside of Brampton or Mississauga. Please contact the police service responsible for the area in which the incident occurred
- If someone broke into, or attempted to break into your home, garage or business
- If this is the theft or loss of a firearm
- If this is related to any form of personal violence, including domestic violence.
- If this is related to any kind of vandalism or graffiti that could be hate motivated
- If this is related to a traffic complaint that is in progress
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Include An Action Item Or Status
This is for law enforcers who are tasked to respond to various complaints and reports. A report may indicate the action that was taken or is yet to be taken. For a systematic and efficient process, a police report or investigation may be labeled as on-going, closed or pending. Documentation is important in any organizational process this also makes it easier for authorities to prioritize reports and records.
Tell The Incident Story Backward
This format is not what I would call a report. It is a statement from the writer saying what happened to them. In fact, in most cases, the crime has already occurred and the writer is telling the story backward. When asked why they write this way, many report writers will state that they dont want to make it look like they are making it up they want to emphasize where they received the information.
I have a simple startup paragraph that relieves this concern and makes it clear where the information came from:
I, , on received a call to reference to . My investigation revealed the following information.
This one short paragraph is interpreted to mean you talked to all the parties involved and examined the evidence. A report is not a statement of what the writer did . A report tells the story of what happened, based on the investigation.
Some writers are concerned about being required to testify about what the report revealed. This is not a concern. You only testify to what you did, heard or saw.
When a witness tells you what they saw, you cannot testify to those facts, only that they said it to you. Their information should be thoroughly documented in their own written statements. Each witness, victim or suspect will testify to their own part in the case. Crime scene technicians and experts will testify to the evidence and how it relates to the case.
The investigating officer that writes the report is one of those crayons.
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Police Officers Often Write Reports Using The First Person
Most police reports are written in the first person. The police officer is telling the story of what happened to them. Unfortunately, this is a backwards report. Police records often start with, I responded to a crime, I talked to the victim and they said. and it goes on with the writer telling us what happened to them, the writer. This can make for a confusing story, as it is told from back to front. Rarely do we tell the story from the true beginning to end, unless we were there when it started. How often does that happen? Right…rarely!
Facing Charges We Can Help
If you were accused of a crime, one of the first things our lawyers will do is examine the police report filed against you. We can scrutinize the details of the report and find ways to minimize your charges and penalties as a result. To get started on your defense, get in touch with our attorneys online or at 574-7919.
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Was The Police Report Signed Under Penalty Of Perjury
The first thing that you need to realize about linking police reports to police misconduct is that cops write these reports with the knowledge that they will have to defend the statements provided in the report later on in litigation, explains our experienced police misconduct attorney in Anaheim at the JML Law.
The vast majority of police reports signed by officers in California are signed under penalty of perjury. An oath is signed by cops either directly in the police report or in a separate statement of probable cause attesting that everything that is being stated in the report is truthful to the best of their knowledge.
Use Spelling And Grammar Checkers
Over the past five years, I have read thousands of police reports from around the United States. Many of these reports are packed full of simple grammar and spelling mistakes that a word processors spellcheck would have caught.
I know that many of these agencies, including mine, use Microsoft Word’s spellcheck feature. So why do we continue making basic spelling and grammar mistakes? I decided to do some digging, and each time I read an exceptionally bad report, I called the agency, not to complain or call them out, but to ask questions. I found that most poorly written reports from 2010 to the present day share three traits:
RMS spell checkers are improving, especially in the new AI integrated RMS 3.0 versions. But as of right now, even the most basic version of Microsoft’s Word spellcheck outperforms any RMS spellchecker. Try to write your report in a word processor first, then copy and paste it into your agency’s RMS.
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What Is Report Writing
Before getting into a subject and teaching you how to write a good paper, you need to know clearly what you are facing. Therefore, the first thing is to delve a bit into the concept and define it.
A formal report or report essay is a text written in prose form, exposing the results of an investigation, a business process, or the analysis of a particular topic.
This type of report is used as an expository tool in different areas such as business, scientific, literary, or even in the legal field.
A report paper aims to present the reader with an analysis of results in the framework of an investigation, with special emphasis on the conclusions and processes that led to a certain result.
In the business area, brief reports are used to account for progress in different processes within the company or to disclose timely information requested by external entities.
The Report Serves As A Second Memory So Include All Necessary Information To Be Able To Explain The Incident Regardless Of How Much Time Has Passed
In addition to written information, incorporate multimedia evidence. Video evidence is great supplementary evidence to provide to the jury. As ruled in Chavez vs. Martinez, even if a suspect invokes their right to an attorney, you can still ask questions and record the interview. Although these recordings cannot be used in your report, they can prove valuable when dealing with the civil case later.
You should also record all witness interviews. Many witnesses initial statements do not match their testimony in court, so video evidence is a way to confirm what they were doing at the time of the incident. Beware of wind, traffic and other noise disturbances, such as your radio, that may make it difficult to hear when replaying the video.
Besides recording video, you should also take photographs. Render medical aid first, then photograph the clean, injured areas of the suspect, yourself, and any others involved, such as your K9. Take photos of the non-injured areas of the suspect to ensure they dont claim further injuries later. Document their emotional state following the incident a photograph of a smiling suspect or one flashing a gang sign is important evidence in court.