Efficiency is an important issue for busy police officers. Wordy reports waste time, and unnecessary repetition doesn’t add anything useful.
Here’s an example of a thorough and professional report that’s more wordy than necessary: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1301216-judge-police-report.html
How would you write it more efficiently? (Remember, you don’t want to omit any information.) After you’ve read and evaluated this report, read on for my suggestions.
- Use bullets.
- Remember that you’re not writing a novel! Record only what’s necessary.
- Use simple language (“I” rather than “myself,” for example).
- Omit the introductory sentence, which restates information already recorded on the report form. (Note: Some agencies still require officers to duplicate this information. Follow your agency’s requirements.)
- Use a separate paragraph for each person you talked to (TSA Manager, Trooper Durant, suspect, alleged victim), and another paragraph for your own investigation (viewing the security video).
Here’s an example of how the report could be rewritten:
An excerpt from the original report:
When I arrived, I was approached by TSA Manager Daniel Winship and he told me that a passenger reported to him that her watch was stolen. He handed me a photograph taken from security video of an older Caucasian woman with brown hair, wearing dark clothing and a bright colored scarf. The woman was holding what appeared to be a watch in her right hand. Winship told me that he checked the video and observed the person In the photograph taking a watch from one of the bins and placing it in her carry-on bag. I asked him about the Identity of the victim and he told me that he asked her to remain in the area.
TSA Manager Daniel Winship showed me a photograph taken from security video of an older Caucasian woman with brown hair, wearing dark clothing and a bright colored scarf. The woman was holding what appeared to be a watch in her right hand.
Winship told me he had:
- viewed a security video showing the woman taking a watch from one of the bins and placing it in her carry-on bag
- identified and interviewed the woman
- asked her to remain in the area
Under another heading the officer could record the suspect’s statement. Breaking up the report this way helps ensure that nothing is omitted – and makes the report easier to review later if further action is needed.
Each step in the investigation (finding the victim, interviewing her, watching the security video, allowing the suspect to board her flight, etc.) can be documented the same way.
Result: A more efficient report.
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