The NFL season is over, but maybe we can take a moment to look at a police report concerning Cleveland Browns wide receiver Corey Coleman. On December 31 four black men attacked a man named Adam Sapp in the lobby of a Cleveland condominium. Corey Coleman was named as one of the attackers. Police later said Coleman was not involved, and no charges were filed.
The police report has been posted at this link. It’s an effective report, but it includes some of the unnecessary wordiness that wastes so much time – and appears in so many police reports. The report keeps repeating “he stated” and the building address: 701 W. Lakeside “The Pinnacle.” (After you’ve put the location in your report, why keep repeating the address?)
SAPP THEN STATED THAT HE IS UNCLEAR OF WHAT HAPPENED NEXT, BUT HE WAS WOKEN UP BY NINA HOMAN IN A STAIRWELL LOCATED INSIDE OF 701 W. LAKESIDE “THE PINNACLE.” SAPP STATED THAT HE DID NOT KNOW/RECOGNIZE ANY OF THE 4 MALES WHO HE HAD THE CONFRONTATION WITH, BUT NINA HOLMAN KEPT YELLING “THAT WAS HIM! THAT WAS COREY COLEMAN! I CANT BELIEVE HE DID THAT TO YOU! I KNOW THAT’S HIM! SAPP STATED HE ASKED “WHO IS COREY COLEMAN?”
Why do so many officers waste time on unnecessary repetition? Officers have told me that they think repetition could be helpful if the case goes to court.
Your report should demonstrate that you’re a professional who thoroughly knows the business of a police officer. You need to document exactly what you saw, heard, and did at the scene. Any defense attorney should be able to tell that there’s no point trying to embarrass you or persuade you to back down about what you wrote. It’s all there in your report.
Now think about this. Suppose you were careless, distracted, or forgetful. You made mistakes, either in the way you handled the situation or when you tried to remember what happened for your report How can you salvage the situation?
Will writing “he said” over and over be helpful?
Will repeating the address convince a defense attorney that you’re an officer to be reckoned with?
I think the answer is obvious. Unnecessary repetition is a waste of time that doesn’t solve anything.
Here’s a suggested rewrite of the paragraph you read earlier:
SAPP THEN STATED:
- HE IS UNCLEAR ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED NEXT.
- HE WAS WOKEN UP BY NINA HOMAN IN A STAIRWELL IN “THE PINNACLE.”
- HE DID NOT KNOW OR RECOGNIZE ANY OF THE 4 MALES HE HAD THE CONFRONTATION WITH.
- NINA HOLMAN KEPT YELLING “THAT WAS HIM! THAT WAS COREY COLEMAN! I CANT BELIEVE HE DID THAT TO YOU! I KNOW THAT’S HIM.”
- HE DIDN’T KNOW WHO COREY COLEMAN WAS.