The Vincent Viola Incident Report

Because my husband is a huge hockey fan, Vincent Viola’s name is very familiar to us. Viola owns the Florida Panthers, an NHL team that won the Stanley Cup in 1996.

Recently President Trump nominated Viola to serve as Secretary to the Army. But Viola subsequently withdrew his name when questions arose about his business dealings. You can read more here: http://wapo.st/2l7nmCT?tid=ss_tw-bottom

Media interest in Viola led to the discovery of an incident report related to a punching incident at a Saratoga Springs racetrack. You can read the actual report here: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/18/us/politics/document-Vincent-Viola-Police-Report.html

(I hope you will click on the link and evaluate the report before you read my comments below. Putting yourself into the role of a supervisor like this is great preparation for future career challenges – and an effective way to sharpen your own writing skills.)

My reaction: This is a professional report. I particularly noticed one detail that suggested the writer had been to college: The victim “sustained a bloody, swollen lip as a result of the alleged punch.” Most writers don’t bother with that comma between bloody and swollen. Well done!

But I would recommend some changes.

If I were this officer’s supervisor, I would ask that future reports be written more efficiently. Here’s an example of inefficient writing:

I initially spoke with Vincent Viola and requested he come down to the first floor because it was loud upstairs and very difficult to hear. Vincent advised that prior to the incident occurring, he was notified by his wife, Theresa that a man who worked for the food service at the horse sales had pushed her after she tried to get some water from the kitchen area for a woman who had just fainted in the building.

These sophisticated sentences are more evidence that this officer may have been to college. But I would have preferred a more straightforward version. You don’t need “initially” or “prior to the incident occurring.” They don’t add any information. Nor do you need “spoke with Vincent Viola and requested.” Doesn’t requesting automatically involve speaking?

Here’s a better version:

I asked Viola to come down to the first floor because it was loud upstairs.  BETTER

Now I’d like you to read the sentences below (taken from the report) and see if you notice anything:

The subject advised that there was a verbal dispute in progress between two male subjects on the second floor inside the pavilion. 

X was advised by Mazzone Catering Security Supervisor Chris Cole to go home for the rest of his shift.

Here’s what I noticed: In the first sentence, advised clearly means “told.” But in the second sentence you can’t be sure what advised means. Did the supervisor suggest that X go home – or order him to leave?

Advised is a confusing word that does not belong in police reports. If I were the supervisor, I would advise this writer to break his “advised” habit.

On second thought, no. I would tell him to stop using this word.

                 Vincent Viola

 

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