Another Bicycle Incident

This seems to be the week for bicycle incidents!

In Santa Rosa, California, a police officer tackled a bicyclist who was allegedly violating traffic laws.  As a result, the bicyclist’s elbow was broken. You can read the entire story here: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9631121-181/santa-rosa-police-records-detail

Below is a summary that was released to the public. Pretend that you’re a supervisor. What advice would you give the officer who wrote it? (Note that this is not an actual police report. But police departments often issue summaries like this one.)

The incident involved a case of a man known to Santa Rosa police who an officer said was swerving while riding his bike, violating traffic laws and appearing not to heed an officer’s attempts to pull him over.

The man’s claim, as seen on police body-camera footage, was that he didn’t know he was being pulled over or was resisting arrest, having thought the officer’s signals were only to allow the police vehicle to pass by.

As the cyclist continued on his way, Officer Mark Fajardin, a 12-year veteran of the department, exited his patrol vehicle, chased the man on foot, tackled him off his bike and detained him after a brief struggle on the ground.

My comments: This is an excellent summary. The sentence structure is crisp and professional. The facts are objective and straightforward.

But there’s a problem: the writer crammed too much information into each sentence. Here’s a rule of thumb that many professional writers (including me!) try to follow: one idea per sentence. Your writing will be easier to read (and to write!). And you’re far less likely to make errors when you keep your sentences short.

Here’s my revision:

The incident involved a case of a man known to Santa Rosa police. An officer said the man was swerving while riding his bike. He was violating traffic laws and didn’t obey an officer’s attempts to pull him over.

The man kept riding his bicycle. Officer Mark Fajardin, a 12-year veteran of the department, left his patrol car. Officer Fajardin ran after the cyclist, tackled him, and brought the cyclist to the ground.

Body-camera footage showed the cyclist arguing with the officer. The cyclist said he didn’t know he was being pulled over or was resisting arrest. He thought the officer’s signals were only to allow the police vehicle to pass by.

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