Sexual abuse of children is in the news again. The Boy Scouts of America recently announced that it may have to mortgage a large ranch in order to pay legal fees connected to past sexual abuse of Boy Scouts. The Roman Catholic Church is still facing questions about its policies for dealing with the problem. Other religious groups are reporting similar issues.
Today I’m going to look at a 2009 report about a St. Louis Catholic priest named Father Kevin Hederman, He was suspended from the priesthood after he was sued for allegedly abusing a St. Louis teenager. Later, however, the Vatican cleared Father Hederman of the charges. You can read more here.
This is a sad case – but it is also a useful reminder of the importance of good police reporting. The report (which you can read here) is objective and thorough.
Several word-for-word statements from Father Hederman suggest he may have been feeling guilty. His first question to the investigating officer is a telling one: “Is it something sexual I did?” And his second question – “Will I need a lawyer?” – also sounds as if sexual abuse was on his mind.
If you’re looking for a model of an effective report, read this one.
But I would recommend one change: Avoid using advise when you mean “tell” or “say.” Save advise for times when you counsel someone: “I advised her to see a doctor about the cut.”
In the sentence below (quoted from the police report), notice that “advise” is used in two ways: to tell (incorrect) and to counsel (correct). (When you mean “tell,” say so!)
I advised Hederman that when we met, I would indeed be advising him of his rights per Miranda and that it was his right to have counsel with him if he so desired.
The sentence should read:
I told Hederman that when we met, I would indeed be advising him of his rights per Miranda and that it was his right to have counsel with him if he so desired.
Overall, however, it is an excellent report.