What Should Be Left Out?

Officers are often concerned (as they should be) with completeness when they’re writing a report. But it’s also important to know what you should leave out.

Here’s a challenge for you: Read the news summary below. Note that this is NOT an actual police report. If you were the officer, what information would you leave out when you wrote your police report?

A 51-year-old Milwaukee man was arrested for attempted burglary after he was seen on security cameras at Currie Park Golf Course, 3535 N. Mayfair Road, at 12:10 a.m. June 9. A clubhouse window had been broken, causing $300 damage, but nothing appeared missing. When officers arrived, the man ran around the fairway until he gave up near the park entrance. Officers don’t believe he acted alone. The man was on probation violation, and the Jeep he had arrived in was stolen.

What would you have omitted?

Here’s my answer: I would omit “Officers don’t believe he acted alone” and “nothing appeared missing.”

Hunches, guesses, and theories are tremendously useful in police work, but they don’t belong in a report. What you could write, though, would be details that show how you came to that conclusion.

For example, you might have interviewed a security guard who reported seeing three men on the golf course shortly before midnight. Perhaps you talked to an official from the clubhouse who told you that nothing seemed to have been taken.

What you don’t do is draw your own conclusions: “Obviously all three were planning to burglarize the clubhouse.”

A man thinking

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