A Cucumber Problem at Wendy’s

On August 3, Theodore Gunderson ordered a salad at a Wendy’s drive-through window. The salad didn’t have enough cucumbers to satisfy him.  Gunderson threatened an employee and then tried to drive away. An officer reached into Gunderson’s car to take the car keys. Gunderson kept driving, despite the danger to the officer.

Gunderson was arrested for assaulting a police officer. You can read the police report here: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/bizarre/wendys-cucumber-rage-arrest-792854

Overall this is a well-written report – but a few changes might be helpful.

  1. These sentences lack objectivity:

The Defendant used obscene language with the employee (victim), and threatened him by saying “If I had a gun or a knife you would be the first to go”. The victim was scared for his life.  SUBJECTIVE

Police reports are supposed to stick to observable facts. They can’t describe thoughts, feelings, or conclusions. Instead of mentioning obscene language, the report should simply record Gunderson’s exact words. (Remember that what one person considers obscene, another person might consider acceptable.)

There’s a similar problem when the report states that Gunderson threatened the employee: that’s an opinion. Perhaps another person in that situation wouldn’t have felt threatened. The report should record only the threatening words from Gunderson.

The same problem arises with this sentence: “The victim was scared for his life.” How do you know he felt that way? It would be better to write, “The victim told me that he was scared for his life.”

 2. Like many reports, this one lapses into passive voice near the end:

After he lowered the window he was advised he was not free to leave and was being placed under arrest.  PASSIVE VOICE

Who warned him not to leave, and who arrested him? The report doesn’t say. Every sentence in a report should include the name of the person (victim, suspect, witness, or officer) who performed the action. Here’s a useful tip: Start every sentence with a person, place or thing. (That’s probably not how your English teacher wanted you to write your compositions, but it’s great advice for report writing!)

My conclusion: this is a concise and professional report that could benefit from a few changes. 

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