When Is a Report Necessary?

Not every call or traffic stop results in an arrest or citation. You might settle a neighborhood dispute without arresting anyone or decide to warn a motorist about a violation. Sometimes officers are called to deal with situations that don’t warrant a police response – a child who speaks disrespectfully to a parent, for example.

Is documentation required in those situations? Opinions vary. Some officers belong to the “write it down, just in case something happens later” school of thought. Others say that just-in-case record keeping doesn’t qualify as a law enforcement concern.

A police chief in La Crescent, Minnesota recently weighed in on this issue. His department provides a weekly police blotter to the local newspaper, and Chief Doug Stavenau decided to include warnings to motorists even though no citation was issued. (Not surprisingly, some of those motorists wondered why their names were printed in the newspaper!)

Chief Stavenau issued a statement (which you can read at this link) explaining the department’s policy about the police blotter. He noted that each warning is a “teachable moment” that’s relevant to the department’s mission, which includes educating citizens about public safety.

Another factor is the department’s acquisition of what Chief Stavenau called “a more technologically advanced software system.” Every contact with the public automatically generates a report that eventually goes into the police blotter.



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