OJT and Police Reports

How did you learn how to write police reports? Most officers say they learned in two stages. Their academy training taught them the basics. But the real learning didn’t begin until they started working for an agency.

OJT (“on-the-job training”) is wonderful. But it’s important to remember that times change, and sometimes you need to update your thinking.

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I don’t know whether the following story is true, but it makes an excellent point.

Many years ago, the abbot of a monastery owned a cat with an annoying habit. The cat liked to meow and run around the chapel every evening at prayer time.

So a monk was appointed to find the cat at prayer time and tie it up until prayers were over. Peace was restored.

Time went by, the cat grew older, and finally it died. The monks immediately adopted another cat to tie it up at prayer time.

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Do you see the point? Sometimes we perpetuate traditions long after they’ve outlived their usefulness. Like the monks who forgot the original reason for tying up the cat every evening, police officers sometimes forget how traditions got started, and they may be slow to let go of a practice that no longer makes sense.

I started thinking about outworn traditions today when I read a couple of reports with sentences like these:

Johnson was driving a silver two (2) door Yaris hatchback.

Patel said it usually takes him ten (10) minutes to drive home from the office building where he works.

I spoke to four (4) people who said they knew Rodriguez well.

Why are those parenthetical numbers there? I’d be willing to bet that not a single officer could give me a reason. It’s a tradition. OJT. Others write numbers that way, so why not imitate them?

Here’s why:

  • because those parenthetical numbers don’t need to be there
  • because they make you look outdated
  • because they don’t enhance the professionalism of your report
  • because they waste time

Think about the monks and that meowing cat. Times have changed. Let’s drop that meaningless practice!

A Tabby Cat with Green Eyes



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