A list is an effective and time-saving way to organize some (not all!) of the details in a police report. Instead of writing a complete sentence about each detail, you list them. (Sometimes these are called “bullet lists” because each item begins with a little bullet shape.)
Officers are sometimes wary about using lists. Changing a habit can be worrisome!
The fact is, though, that you already know most of what you need to learn: After all, you’ve been writing lists for years in your everyday life.
Give lists a try in a police report. You’ll soon realize it’s much easier than laboring to write a complete sentence for every fact.
Using a list offers you several advantages:
- It’s often faster than writing complete sentences
- It helps you avoid long, tangled sentences that can lead to grammar mistakes
- It automatically helps you organize details for your report
- It saves time when you’re reviewing information later on (for example, preparing for a court appearance)
Here’s an example to help you get started. Version 1 is information from a traditional police report. Version 2 uses a list for some of the information.
Version 1 (traditional paragraph):
Donna Riley told me she went into her bedroom and realized someone had gone through her personal belongings. The contents of drawers had been dumped on the floor. She called 9-1-1. Then she started sorting through the pile on the floor to see if anything was missing. She couldn’t find a cameo pin that had belonged to her great-grandmother. A diamond ring was also missing, along with three sets of gold earrings.
Version 2 (includes a list):
Donna Riley told me she went into her bedroom and realized someone had gone through her personal belongings. The contents of drawers had been dumped on the floor. She called 9-1-1.
Riley found these items were missing:
- a cameo pin that had belonged to her great-grandmother
- diamond ring
- three sets of gold earrings
Here are some tips for using lists effectively:
- Don’t try to write an entire report as a list! It won’t work.
- Make sure you have several items of related information.
- Lists are useful for a victim’s or witness’ statement and for lists of stolen items and search results
Here are some useful sentences for introducing a list:
I took the following actions:
[Name] reported these items as missing:
I dusted these items for fingerprints:
I interviewed the following people:
These people also had keys to the house:
Here are two more examples of lists that you can use as models.
Weigel told me:
- He went to bed at about 12:30 Tuesday night
- He did not see or talk to anyone Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning
- His relationship with Joan Conners was over
- He never threatened to hurt her
I did the following:
- handcuffed William Jelinek
- called for a backup
- called for an ambulance
- asked Sarah Thomas to sit with Toni Jelinek until the ambulance came
List are both efficient and easy to use. Give them a try!