In yesterday’s post, I discussed an excellent police report that could – however – have been written more efficiently. Today I’m going to suggest ways to make the report (about a recent noisy party in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts) more objective.
See what you think of these excerpts:
I attempted further conversation with this male, but was unsuccessful.
He became even more irate with me.
A male, later identified as Matthew Kennedy, came to the door and immediately became angry with me. He gave me little opportunity to explain our presence.
All of those statements are opinions that a defense attorney could challenge in court. Because it’s impossible to look inside a person’s brain to see what they’re thinking, there’s no way to prove that Kennedy was angry or irate. An attorney could argue that Kennedy is always abrupt or brusque, for example.
And “unsuccessful”can be just as slippery. Maybe the conversation was stymied by outside noise.
So the report needs to give any specific evidence that the conversation was “unsuccessful” or that Kennedy was irate, angry, and uncooperative. Here are some objective statements:
I repeated the question three times, but Kennedy did not answer.
Kennedy shouted [record his exact words]
Kennedy told me that I was [record his exact words]
Kennedy came to the door, and I explained I was a police officer responding to a noise complaint. Kennedy said, [record his exact words] and closed the door.
* * * * * *
Before I go, I want to point out one more persistent problem with police reports: the ever-present advised. Somehow, when recruits enter a police academy, they stop using the words “tell” and “told.” I picture an officer at a restaurant with friends saying something like, “I advised Julie that the Italian food here is wonderful.” Ridiculous isn’t it?
Advise means “suggest” or “counsel.” If you give information or a warning to a citizen, use tell or told.
I advised Kennedy (whom I have never encountered or recognized) that I needed to speak with the owner or person in charge of the home. CONFUSING
I told Kennedy that I needed to speak with the owner or person in charge of the home. BETTER
I advised both parties of the Noise by-law violation. CONFUSING
I told both parties about the noise by-law violation. BETTER