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Professional Report Writing

Police Report Writing Quiz

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This quiz will help you evaluate your report-writing skills. Each question has only one correct answer. Answers and explanations follow.

1.  Which is appropriate for a professional report?

a)  Jones advised me that he always kept the lawn mower locked in his shed.

b)  I ascertained that someone had attempted to break the lock.

c)  I saw puddles of dirty water on the kitchen floor.

d)  All of the above

2.  Which is appropriate for a professional report?

a)  When I asked Mrs. Kimmel why she had called the police, she said that she had heard a strange noise in the basement, and when I asked her to describe it, she said it sounded like someone was walking around down there.

b)  Boyd stood up, put his hands on his hips, and said, “You aren’t really planning to arrest the police chief’s brother-in-law, are you?”

c)  Because Fowler is elderly, I didn’t expect to get any useful information about the break-in.

d)  All of the above

3.  Which is appropriate for a professional report?

a)  I looked for muddy footprints in the garage but did not find any.

b)  I checked the first-floor windows to see if any of them had been broken. Then I checked the doors for signs of illegal entry.

c)  Jetson was obviously planning to break a window, enter the home, and look for valuables to steal.

d)  All of the above.

4.  Which is appropriate for a professional report?

a)  I advised Kampen to talk to an attorney.

b)  Peters advised me that he had been at work since eight o’clock that morning.

c)  After I questioned them, the neighbors returned to their respective homes.

d)  all of the above

5.  Officer Panning harbors some prejudices against minorities and gays. His superiors should address this problem by

a)  telling him to use passive voice

b)  telling him to avoid “I” in his reports

c)  referring him for sensitivity training

d)  all of the above

6.  Probable cause isn’t an issue if

a)  you’re dispatched to a location

b)  you decide to search a passenger vehicle in connection with a traffic stop

c)  you see a person who’s behaving suspiciously

d)  all of the above

7.  Four versions of an excerpt from a police report appear below. Which version is best?

a)  Listmark was crying and rubbing the left side of her face. She told me Wilton had slapped her face, grabbed her wallet, and left the apartment.

b)  The victim was crying and rubbing the left side of her face. She told me the suspect had slapped her face, grabbed her wallet, and left the apartment.

c)  Listmark was crying and rubbing the left side of her face. I asked her what had happened. She told me Wilton had slapped her face. I asked what happened next. She said he grabbed her wallet. I asked where he was. She said he had left the apartment.

d)  Victim was upset and seemed to be in pain. Victim told this officer that the suspect had mistreated her and stolen from her.

8.  Wording appropriate for a police report includes:

a)  evaded my questions

b)  seemed confused

c)  both of these

d)  none of these

9.  One evening a homeless woman attacks you. She’s known to have emotional problems. Wording appropriate for your report includes:

a)  behaved aggressively toward me

b)  punched my left arm with her fist

c)  crazy and dangerous

d)  all of these

10.  A well-written report

a)  can impress your superiors

b)  might be read by people outside of your agency

c)  can facilitate a prosecution

d)  all of these

Police Report Writing Quiz ANSWERS

1.  c)  I saw puddles of dirty water on the kitchen floor.  CORRECT

“a” is incorrect: Don’t use advised unless actual advice is involved. In “b,” ascertained is vague police jargon: Use “saw” or “heard” instead.

2.  b)  Boyd stood up, put his hands on his hips, and said, “You aren’t really planning to arrest the police chief’s brother-in-law, are you?”  CORRECT

“a” is wordy: You don’t need to keep repeating “I asked.” “c” is mindreading (“I didn’t expect”) instead of observable facts. It’s also insensitive: Many older people have excellent memories and powers of observation.

3.  a)  I looked for muddy footprints in the garage but did not find any.  CORRECT

“b” doesn’t state whether you found any broken windows or signs of illegal entry. “c” offers mindreading instead of verifiable facts (“Jetson was obviously planning”)

4.  a)  I advised Kampen to talk to an attorney CORRECT (“Advise” means giving counsel or advice)

“b” is incorrect: Don’t use “advise” unless someone gives you actual advice. “c” is incorrect: Respective is jargon and an unnecessary word.

5.  c)  referring him for sensitivity training  CORRECT

Officer Panning needs to learn new ways to think and respond. Gimmicks (passive voice, writing “this officer” instead of “I”) aren’t going to change his attitude.

6.  a)  isn’t an issue if you’re dispatched to a location  CORRECT

Both traffic stop-related searches and allegations of suspicious behavior must be justified via specific details in a report.

7.  a)  Listmark was crying and rubbing the left side of her face. She told me Wilton had slapped her face, grabbed her wallet, and left the apartment.  CORRECT

“b” is incorrect because it uses “victim” and “suspect” instead of the actual names. “c” has too much repetition (“I asked her…I asked her…I asked her”).  “d” is vague. Specific details are needed (“crying,” “rubbing,” “wallet”).

8.  d)  none of these  CORRECT

“Evaded” and “confused” are vague. Describe the behavior you saw.

9.  b)  punched my left arm with her fist  CORRECT

“a”  (“behaved aggressively”) is vague.  d)  “Crazy” is insensitive;  “dangerous” is vague.

10.  d)  all of these  CORRECT


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