How to Include a List in a Report

A list is an effective and time-saving way to organize some (not all!) of the details in a police report. Instead of writing a complete sentence about each detail, you list them. (Sometimes these are called “bullet lists” because each item begins with a little bullet shape.)

Officers are sometimes wary about using lists. Changing a habit can be worrisome!

The fact is, though, that you already know most of what you need to learn: After all, you’ve been writing lists for years in your everyday life.

Give lists a try in a police report. You’ll soon realize it’s much easier than laboring to write a complete sentence for every fact.

Using a list offers you several advantages:

  • It’s often faster than writing complete sentences
  • It helps you avoid long, tangled sentences that can lead to grammar mistakes
  • It automatically helps you organize details for your report
  • It saves time when you’re reviewing information later on (for example, preparing for a court appearance)

Here’s an example to help you get started. Version 1 is information from a traditional police report. Version 2 uses a list for some of the information.

Version 1 (traditional paragraph):

Donna Riley told me she went into her bedroom and realized someone had gone through her personal belongings. The contents of drawers had been dumped on the floor. She called 9-1-1. Then she started sorting through the pile on the floor to see if anything was missing. She couldn’t find a cameo pin that had belonged to her great-grandmother. A diamond ring was also missing, along with three sets of gold earrings.

Version 2 (includes a list):

Donna Riley told me she went into her bedroom and realized someone had gone through her personal belongings. The contents of drawers had been dumped on the floor. She called 9-1-1.

Riley found these items were missing:

    • a cameo pin that had belonged to her great-grandmother
    • diamond ring
    • three sets of gold earrings

Here are some tips for using lists effectively:

  1. Don’t try to write an entire report as a list! It won’t work.
  2. Make sure you have several items of related information.
  3. Lists are useful for a victim’s or witness’ statement and for lists of stolen items and search results

Here are some useful sentences for introducing a list:

I took the following actions:

[Name] reported these items as missing:

I dusted these items for fingerprints:

I interviewed the following people:

These people also had keys to the house:

Here are two more examples of lists that you can use as models.

Example 1

Weigel told me:

    • He went to bed at about 12:30 Tuesday night
    • He did not see or talk to anyone Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning
    • His relationship with Joan Conners was over
    • He never threatened to hurt her

Example 2

I did the following:

    • handcuffed William Jelinek
    • called for a backup
    • called for an ambulance
    • asked Sarah Thomas to sit with Toni Jelinek until the ambulance came

List are both efficient and easy to use. Give them a try! 

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