I’m always looking for police reports to discuss on this blog. Here’s one I came across in my files. What’s your opinion? (My comments appear below.)
On the above t/d/l, def did have a large knife in his hand and was threatening to kill himself and officers with that knife also stated had a gun but no gun was recovered def did refuse to drop the knife and did start coming towards officers in an aggressive manner. SWAT was called out.
I found this report odd. One feature that immediately caught my eye was the unnecessary “did”: “def did have a large knife….” “def did refuse to drop the knife and did start coming….”
I was also puzzled by the lack of periods and capital letters. The repeated “def” (short for “defendant”) suggested that the officer was in a hurry to submit the report.
My biggest concern is about this wording: “coming towards officers in an aggressive manner.” That’s too vague for a police report, and it opens the door to a challenge from a defense attorney. One person’s “aggressive manner’ could be another person’s normal behavior. (I’m from New York, so my threshold for “aggressive” may be different from someone else’s.
I wish I knew the backstory here. Perhaps the officer was unusually busy and didn’t have time to use professional practices. The unnecessary “did” may be a leftover from school days and an old-fashioned teacher.
Here are some questions for you to think about:
- If you were a supervisor, would you insist on a rewrite – or let this one go? Or would you fix it yourself?
- Does your agency have consistent policies about the minimum standards for a report?
- Who makes those decisions?
- If follow-ups are needed, who deals with them?
The time to make these decisions is before a problematic report is submitted. Every officer should know beforehand what the standards are – and where to go if there are questions or problems.