Editing a Report

Many officers find that editing a report is an excellent way to sharpen their writing and thinking skills. In just a moment you’re going to read three sentences adapted from an actual report. If you were the supervisor, what changes would you suggest?

Upon the arrival of backup officers five CDs were recovered from the suspect, who had concealed those items by stuffing them inside his jacket. The suspect was going to attempt to pass all points of sale without purchasing the CDs. Total value of the CDs is $89.12.

Here are some points you might have raised:

1.  You need to state who recovered the CDs – and how. Passive voice “were recovered” might cause problems if there’s a court hearing later and the defense attorney wants to know who did what. Better:  “Officer Johnson reached inside Patterson’s jacket….”

2.  Write the suspect’s name instead of “the suspect.”

3.  Eliminate the mind reading. A defense attorney might challenge you on “the Defendant was going to pass all points of sale….” Don’t try to guess what someone is thinking.

Here’s how this part of the report might be rewritten:

Officers Johnson and Devue arrived at approximately 5:25 pm. Officer Johnson reached inside Patterson’s jacket and removed five CD’s (total value $89.12).  CORRECT

a compact disk or CD


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Updated, with a new chapter on Writing Efficiently

“It will definitely help you with your writing skills.” – Joseph E. Badger, California Association of Accident Reconstructionists Newsletter

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