Quiz: Writing Sentences for Police Reports

Here’s a quiz for you! Modern police reports require sentences that are objective, concise, straightforward, free of jargon, and written in active voice. Do your reports meet these standards? 

Instructions: Read the sentences below. Mark each effective sentence with a √, and each ineffective sentence with an X. Scroll down for the answers.

  1. The suspect was transported to the county jail.
  2. I was suspicious of what Barton told me and decided to look for signs of forced entry.
  3. The car turned into the Circle K parking lot, and upon observing this, I activated my flashers and siren and followed it.
  4. I asked Novak how she knew that it was 2:19 AM when she heard the banging noise, and she responded that she’d looked at the clock in her bedroom.
  5. Upon observing Filton’s aggressive body language, I advised him to place his hands on the hood of the car.

ANSWERS

  1. X  This sentence omits an essential piece of information: the name of the officer who transported the suspect. Always use active voice. BETTER: I [or the name of the officer who did the driving] transported the suspect to the county jail. 
  2. X This sentence doesn’t contain any useful information and needs rewriting. First, the statement that you were “suspicious” about Barton lacks objectivity. Second, it’s a waste of time explaining what you’re planning to do and why. Instead you should write about you did and what you found. BETTER: I looked for signs of forced entry and found none. OR I found splintered wood and a hole approximately four inches in diameter near the lock on the rear door.
  3. X Omit “upon observing this” – it’s empty filler and inefficient. Better: The car turned into the Circle K parking lot. I activated my flashers and siren and followed the car.
  4. X Omit your questions and just record what suspects, victims, and witnesses tell you. BETTER: Novak said she’d looked at the clock in her bedroom and knew it was 2:19 AM.
  5. X This sentence has two problems. First, “Filton’s aggressive body language” lacks objectivity. What seems aggressive to you might look like normal behavior to someone else. You need to describe Filton’s behavior: “I saw Filton’s balled fists….” Second, advised is a poor word choice because it can mean “counseled” or “suggested.” If Filton refused to obey you, his attorney could say that you were only making a suggestion about his hands. BETTER: I saw Filton’s balled fists and told him to place his hands on the hood of the car.

 

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