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  • Report writing

    I have looked at reports from different police officers and everyone has their own style..
    I want to be prepared to write reports that will hold up in court and not get kicked back..

    If there are any old threads, can someone please send me the link. And
    any books specific to report writing..

    Whats worked for me so far is to look at other police officers reports and the format they use.

    Thank you for all the help in advance.

  • #2
    Part of the problem with police report writing is that I cannot teach you how to write a good report if you failed to grasp the basics of grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, etc., while growing up and going to school. If you want a report to hold up in court, make sure you cover the elements of the offense. If you can't articulate the above, don't be surprised when the prosecutor doesn't take your charges.

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    • #3
      Go get & read a copy - and keep it on your desk - of 'Elements of Style', a book by William Strunk & E.B. White. It is required reading for our academy report-writing course. Really does help keep things simple and on-topic. True to topic it is not a very big book, but it is worth far more than its weight.
      The opinions expressed here are from the individual only and do not represent the view of any agency that the poster may be affiliated with

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      • #4
        Make sure you always have the who, what, when, where. There are many writing styles such as first person or "reporting Officer". Meaning I observed the incident or RO observed the incident they mean the same many older cops use the RO or 3rd person. I use first person neither is wrong here. Keep it simple and clear and write it in order so its easy to follow. One of our trainers at the academy gave us this advice, write it so someone who was not there and doesn't know anything about the participants or the incident can read it once and be informed of all the facts and follow it without having to re-read it several times.

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        • #5
          Who, what, when, where, why, and how? Pretty much the same as a media (choke) reporter. You've got to be far better though. Much more is riding on what you write than on a thirty second sound byte by some talking head with a telepromter. You might think about taking some writing courses, or better yet, college level English and Grammar courses at your local community college. That suggestion is not made to belittle or offend you. These courses can really be beneficial to you in writing the type of reports that Prosecutors will have confidence in.

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          • #6
            Thank you for all the help and great advice..
            In the academy I did Very well on my reports, I just kept them simple and to the point. I was told it's a whole different game when you have A SGT. that wants your report written certain ways and it just varies who reviews it.. I just want to make sure i can adapt to whatever writing style they want..

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            • #7
              Please for the love of God write the report the way it occurred in chronological order. Don't skip around. Very limited circumstances require you to not do so.

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              • #8
                Don't use "police-ese". You don't activate your overhead-mounted emergency lighting equipment to effect an enforcement stop. You turn on your car's red and blue lights to pull the car over. You don't exit your patrol vehicle and initiate contact with the aforementioned violator. You get out of your car and talk with the driver.

                Don't use the phrase "it should be noted that". Obviously it is, because the rest of the sentence is doing exactly that. That phrase usually means "I forgot to write this earlier but don't have the skills to insert this paragraph where it should be."

                If you state something to be a fact, prove it. Don't assume the reader knows anything about the situation. Spell it out and explain it.

                There is no such thing as too much detail in a police report. Someone with zero knowledge of law enforcement should be able to read your report and construct a documentary-level reproduction of the incident.

                Proofread. After completing the narrative, save it, put it aside and do something else for a few minutes. Fill out the check-the-box forms, hit the head, grab a cup of coffee, look at the MDC and see how many calls you have pending and breathe a sigh of relief that you were sharp enough to "forget" to clear your last call. Go back to the narrative and proofread it. By putting some other task between the writing and proofreading, you are much more likely to find errors or omissions.
                Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. - Ronald Reagan

                I don't think It'll happen in the US because we don't trust our government. We are a country of skeptics, raised by skeptics, founded by skeptics. - Amaroq

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                • #9
                  I like to read a lot and have adopted a writing style that mirror the style of writing that I like reading. My concept is if it's engaging for me to read I want it to be the same way for someone else. I break things down to be able to tell a story; essentially what others have said about letting people who weren't there know what happened. I like to use lots of different wordage and paint a picture with words and sentences. I'm fortunate to have a strong vocabulary.

                  When I started writing reports, I geared my writing towards the teenage mindset. To break that down, if I'm writing for a teenage mindset it helps me to keep things entertaining in a way on top of making sure it's simple. If a teenager can read and understand something, then a prosecutor, defense attorney and even my Sgt and brass above me should have no issues understanding the report.

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                  • #10
                    Plain english for cops.
                    Being a good street cop is like coming to work in a wet suit and peeing in your pants. It's a nice warm feeling, but you're the only one who knows anything has happened.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ateamer View Post
                      Don't use the phrase "it should be noted that". Obviously it is, because the rest of the sentence is doing exactly that. That phrase usually means "I forgot to write this earlier but don't have the skills to insert this paragraph where it should be."
                      .
                      It should be noted that I agree with this.

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                      • #12
                        Don't write your reports like this:

                        "I did turn on my emergency lights and stop the vehicle. I did exit my patrol vehicle and make contact with the driver. I did smell the odor of an intoxicating beverage. I did ask the operator if he would be willing to perform some field sobriety tests. I did place handcuffs on the operator and informed him he was under arrest."

                        I did... I did... I did...(&*%^#)*&%^(*@&$^)#$

                        Of course you friggin' did it, otherwise why are you writing it!?!?!?
                        sigpic

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                        • #13
                          If you see the word "and" think about removing it and putting a period there instead.

                          then then then then then.......if you're writting in chronological order you do not need to repeat this word over and over.
                          Today's Quote:

                          "The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits."
                          Albert Einstein

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                          • #14
                            You also have to be certain to cover the incident from both points of view (if you have them). It's very easy to slant your story for the victim (particularly in rape, abuse, molestation cases) and it's difficult sometimes to keep giving both sides of the story. I recently wrote one on a molestation case where I had to force myself to be neutral because, while writing on the victim, I felt such sympathy for her. Your job isn't to give a one-sided story, but to present to the court ALL the information you have, be it damning to the victim or the suspect.

                            Not only must you cover the w,w,w,w, and h of the matter, but you MUST include in your narrative the elements of the crime that you are charging. Obviously crimes and elements differ from state to state, but if one of the element of burglary (for instances) requires it take place at night and in an occupied dwelling, then make sure you state the time of the offense and who was in the home. It sounds simple enough, but too often I encounter reports where the elements of the crime charged are not listed in the narrative.

                            Please break your narrative up into paragraphs. This makes it easier to read and to comprehend. Long paragraphs chock full of information could cause a fact to be overlooked or lost in translation.

                            The first time a person is mentioned, be them victim, witness, suspect, etc, list their biographical information after their name. In addition, be consistent in how you refer to them throughout the narrative. If you use first name or last name then stay with that format. Don't switch.

                            I know some agencies locally that still use the V1/S1/W1 format in report writing. It's horrible, difficult to read and antiquated.

                            I do a lot of interviews and as such my narratives include quotes. I have the notes/recordings to back them up. Be very careful in using quotes unless you can do the same. Attributing words to someone needs some sort of documentation (audio, written, video) to support it....particularly in confessions.

                            I realize this is my pet peeve, but...people don't waive or invoke the Miranda rights. They waive their 5th amendment rights.

                            Chronological order is important and there are few cases (as mentioned by a previous poster) where this should be deviated from. If there is background information that is pertinent and needs to be noted then I will break off from the narrative and write Detective (investigative, etc) note:....... and plug in the information.

                            No cop talk, please.

                            Writing is a style and not everyone is going to master it. I work with some that struggle with it and while they aren't all that smooth at it, the facts are there. What I find annoying is going to one of my Officers to ask a question and they can tell me everything that happened, yet their narrative is two paragraphs long. I, having never had to struggle with writing, get very frustrated with this.

                            Since I end up with many of their reports on my desk, I've told them that what they don't know is just as important as what they do know. In cases such as a breaking or entering, I need to know what you don't know. If you don't know the point of entry/exit, the amount stolen, the number of suspects, the direction and mode of travel, etc then I need to tell me that you don't have that information. Otherwise, I think you just didn't bother to look for it. Make sense?

                            Please know 'your and you're' along with 'their and there' and "were and we're." Spell check won't always catch those mistakes.

                            When you're done with the narrative, think about this: If the victim was your family member, have you accurately documented the case? Don't half *** it because you've six more to get done before your shift is over. Not only are you being unfair to the victim, but you stand an excellent chance of being torn apart on the stand. Plus side is, it usually only takes that one time for a lesson to be learned. And that's what the details are about. I know that every time I've testified, be it district, superior or federal court, I've learned something. I try to write my narratives from the point of view of a defense attorney.
                            Last edited by Smurfette_76; 06-03-2011, 12:08 PM.
                            sigpic

                            I don't agree with your opinion, but I respect its straightforwardness in terms of wrongness.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Smurfette_76 View Post
                              Your Post.
                              Thank you for that, very helpful post! We're required aforementioned which to me is very confusing (FM/H Doe struck VICTIM in the face with a shovel)

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