An Excellent Police Report

Last week an academy instructor made a useful suggestion about my blog. He told me that I do a good job when I’m explaining some of the mistakes that can appear in a police report. But he wished I would give more examples of excellence so that new police officers have models to learn from.

I think that’s a great suggestion! I went into my files and found a very professional repot about a 2013 arrest. Actress Reese Witherspoon was charged with disorderly conduct after her husband, James Joseph Toth, was pulled over for a DUI.

You can read the story and the police report online. The report is worth a careful look because it exemplifies many of the qualities that supervisors look for: accuracy, objectivity, clarity, and professionalism. I didn’t see a single example of police jargon. There’s no passive voice. The events are chronicled in clear, simple English, and the officer used “I” when he reported his actions. Well done!

But I’m going to follow up on my previous post about efficiency. I thought the officer took a long time to recount what he saw and heard. (I’m always encouraging officers to get their paperwork done efficiently.)

Listing some of the information – instead of writing a sentence for each fact – would save a great deal of time. (Because there’s usually a little “tick” or “bullet” in front of each item, this type of list is called a “bullet list.”)

For example, here’s how the officer could have recorded what he saw Toth’s Fusion doing:

I saw a silver Ford Fusion fail to maintain its lane while it traveled in the left lane. It:

-traveled on the white dashed line

-traveled from left to right

-traveled on the double yellow line

-blinked its left turn signal

-traveled on the double yellow line again

-straddled the solid white line

-crossed the double yellow line again

And here’s how he could have recorded Toth’s statements:

Mr. Toth told me he:

-was 42 years old

-had one drink in a restaurant

-agreed to perform field sobriety testing

-had a problem with his left leg

-would continue with the testing despite the leg problem

-was chewing a mint

A list is an efficient and effective way to list information in a report. I encourage you to use lists in your own reports.

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