How Would You Write This Report?

If you’re a student in a police academy, you might be shown a video and asked to write a report about it.

Let’s try it. Click the link to read a news story about Philip Standefer, a police officer in Lubbock, Texas, who saved a driver’s life through quick thinking. Then watch the video below. (It’s only 47 seconds long.)

How would you write your report? The news story is incomplete, so you can invent some details (such as the name of the driver of the van and the other officers who arrived at the scene). (Don’t cheat! Do it now, before you look at my version.)

Answer: This situation calls for a Type 3 report (and a commendation for Officer Standefer!). What’s special about Type 3 reports is that you, the officer, become part of the story. (In Type 1 and Type 2 reports, the events happened before you arrived.)

Type 3 reports require special care because you’re dealing with two stories – before and after. Don’t make this complicated for yourself.

Officer Standefer might write something like this (I invented some facts):

At approximately 1:19 AM on September 17, 2012, I, Philip Standefer, was standing at the 3700 block of 19th Street talking to a driver about a traffic accident.

I saw a flower van heading north on 19th Street at high speed. It crossed the median. I saw that Sarah Beaty, 19, was standing in the path of the vehicle. I pushed her away.

Sarah fell onto the road. The van missed her.

The van crashed into a patrol car, which then hit another patrol car. I was pinned between both cars. I saw that my leg was pointing in the wrong direction.

Officers Calpen and Tenley arrived and called for an ambulance. The medics gave me first aid and drove me to Trinity Hospital.

Officer Tenley arrested Sally Cooper, driver of the van. He notified Cooper of her Miranda rights. Then he transported her to the county jail.

Because departmental policies differ, your report might be different from mine.

But the basic principles are always the same. An effective police report sticks strictly to the facts. You should omit your thinking processes (“I suspected the driver was intoxicated,” “I was afraid the car would injure Sarah”).

There’s a lovely follow-up to this story. ABC News brought Sarah Beaty and Officer Standefer back together so that she could thank him for saving her life. You can read about their meeting here.

Well done, Officer Standefer!


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