Here’s a challenge for you (a quick one, for a change!). Pretend you’re a supervisor, and read these sentences from actual police reports. What would you say to the officers who wrote them? (My comments appear below.)
The first sentence is from a report about a victim of domestic violence:
While waiting for rescue, I asked what had happened, if there were any witnesses and how long ago had it occurred.
The second sentence is from a report about an attempt to serve a warrant:
We continued to ask her where Quincy was, and she stated he was not home.
- I would tell the officer who wrote #1 that this sentence should never have been written at all – and I would have done some counseling about efficiency. Police officers are busy men and women. Get your paperwork done and go on to the next task! In this report, writing down your questions adds nothing useful.
- Excerpt #2 impressed me, and I would have congratulated the officer on a professional report. (Of course I’m assuming the rest of the report was just as good!). It’s clear, efficient, and written in active voice. There’s no need to write your repeated questions:
We asked her where Quincy was, and she stated he was not home. We asked her again where Quincy was, and she again stated he was not home. We asked her another time where Quincy was, and she once again stated he was not home.
And there’s something else I would have been happy about: that word stated. It’s wonderful to read a police report written in normal English! (Too many officers are still using advised when they mean said or stated. Weird!)
How did you do?
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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