Another Look at the Friendly Skies

On April 14 I discussed a letter written by the United Airlines CEO, and I said it has a useful lesson for law enforcement officers: Make sure your reports are thoroughly objective. I listed some of the subjective words and expressions that CEO Munoz used in his letter, such as “belligerent” and “disruptive.”

(To refresh your memory: United Airlines needed extra seats for UA employees who showed up at the last minute. A passenger was told to give up his seat, but he insisted on staying on the plane. The passenger – Dr. David Dao – was removed and suffered a broken nose.)

Now – thanks to the Internet – we can look at a thoroughly objective account of what happened on that UA flight. It was written by…(drum roll!)…a police officer. Click the link below to read it:

READ: David Dao United Airlines Chicago Police Reports

The officer patiently explains, step-by-step, what happened on that plane. At no time does the officer state an opinion. It’s all observable facts, and for each one there’s a source. The officer explains where each piece of information came from (such as “a passenger in Seat 16B” or from Dr. Dao himself). (For comparison, you can read the CEO’s  letter here. You’ll see immediately that it’s full of generalizations with few objective facts.)

The quality of the writing in this report is excellent. There’s no jargon. For example, the report uses the everyday word “told” instead of the jargonish “advised.” Everything is written in active voice.

Although the report is handwritten (so that no spellchecker was available), every word is spelled correctly – even received, a word even I sometimes struggle with. Sentences are sophisticated but clear.

The incident on that United Airlines flight was a huge embarrassment for the airline. But the police officer who wrote that report has reason to be proud – and so does the agency.



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