If you’re planning a long career in law enforcement, you’ll need to know how to handle many types of professional writing tasks. One of the most important is official police correspondence. Today we’re going to look at a response to a request from a media representative.
Suppose a reporter asked made a public records request for a police report. Here’s one way (the wrong way!) to respond:
Dear Mr. Calfin:
The Department of New York Highway Patrol received your New York Public Records Act (NYPA) request of August 19, 2019, which you submitted to this office in person. Please accept this notification of the Department’s response regarding your request.
In your request, you asked for copies of police reports filed by any individuals between July 7, 2019 and July 11, 2019 pertaining to a series of incidents on Powell Street in Homeville.
With respect to your request, we are enclosing copies of the reports in question.
What impression will Mr. Calfin have of you and your agency? That you’re hopelessly old-fashioned and inefficient. The first 71 letters of your letter tell him what he already knows: he asked your agency for copies of some reports.
What’s the point of telling him that “We received your request?” Why else would you have written to him? It would be like answering the phone by saying, “Hello. I picked up the phone because I heard it ringing.” (Once I really did work in an office that programmed the phones to say, “You have a caller” when an employee answered the phone. Crazy!)
Here’s a revision that creates a much better impression (and saves you time):
Dear Mr. Calfin:
Here are the police reports you requested about a series of incidents on Powell Street, Homeville, between July 7 and 11, 2019. We’re happy to fulfill your request.
Of course there are situations where you need to go into much more detail. Use your critical thinking skills and experience to decide when you need to put details in writing. That’s a way to showcase both your agency and your own professionalism.
Efficiency is important in today’s busy world. Long-winded correspondence is exasperating to read. “Business as usual” writing practices need to be replaced when they’re no longer useful.