Greta Van Susteren hosts the popular Fox TV show On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren. On May 9 she posted the leaked police report that describes how three young women and the young daughter of one of them were rescued from the Cleveland house where they’d been imprisoned by alleged kidnapper Ariel Castro.
The report (which you can read online) describes that rescue with the clarity and precision you might expect from a professional writer. But the author is neither a bestselling novelist nor an investigative journalist: He’s a police officer, and writing reports like this one is just one of his everyday duties.
Here are some of the qualities that stand out in the kidnapping report:
1. It accurately recounts a complicated set of events that began with Amanda Barry’s decision to attempt an escape and ended with the reading of the suspects’ Miranda rights.
2. It is concise—especially impressive because so much information is included. Facts are recorded without repetition and unnecessary verbiage.
3. It is written in clear, professional, jargon-free English, using timesaving words like “I,” “stated,” “said,” “checked,” and “talking.”
4. It uses active voice: “I responded,” PO Tracy gained entry,” “We then asked.”
5. It testifies to the professionalism of the officers who rescued the victims, recorded their statements, and apprehended the three suspects. (Ariel Castro has since been charged, and his two brothers have been cleared.) The rescue was an emotionally charged event, with victims jumping into the officers’ arms in an outpouring of relief and gratitude. In the middle of the high drama, the officers were able to obtain an astonishing amount of information about the victims’ long ordeal.
From May 12 through May 18, communities across the United States will be observing Police Week. The rescue in Cleveland is a powerful example of what a police officer may be called upon to do: Breaking down a door, searching for victims, gently carrying a little girl to the back seat of a police car, tracking down a perpetrator, making an arrest.
What’s not nearly as exciting or dramatic is what happened after the suspects were transported to jail in Cleveland: An officer had to sit down and record in detail what happened, who was there, and what was said and done. That part of the job has none of the breathtaking power of the dramatic rescue. But that report is destined to play a vital role in the next part of the story—ensuring that the man who perpetrated those horrors is brought to justice.