My thanks to Bruce A. Sokolove, principal of Field Training Associates, for alerting me to an article with some interesting implications for police reports. The section on memory science (which I’ll discuss below) is especially valuable.
The 2015 issue of Journal of Law Enforcement (Volume 4, No. 6) examines an intriguing study: “Body-Worn Cameras Improve Law Enforcement Officer Report Writing Accuracy” by D. Dawes, W. Heegaard et al. You can download the article at this link: www.jghcs.info/index.php/l/article/download/410/355.
The study involved eleven law-enforcement officers who wrote a use-of-force report from memory. The officers then then reviewed their body-worn-camera recordings and amended their reports. The study found that the officers corrected 21 errors “related to miscounting, mis-sequencing, or omitting force, warnings, compliance, or other important descriptors of the use of force.”
What interested me most is the research about memory science. We assume, the authors say, that remembering is like playing back a digital recording. Science has shown, however, that remembering is a “reconstructive process.” A 2013 article in the National Review of Neuroscience compares memory to paleontology: “out of a few stored bone chips, we remember a dinosaur.”
I encourage you to read the section on memory science (it’s short, and you’ll find it on the first page). Knowing your limitations is the first step towards moving past them. Awareness of the ways that our memories can mislead us is the first step towards better remembering.
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Criminal Justice Report Writing by Jean Reynolds
“It will definitely help you with your writing skills.” – Joseph E. Badger, California Association of Accident Reconstructionists Newsletter