Here’s a police report from my files that’s worth reading.
A police department investigated possible wrongdoing in the code enforcement office. After a lengthy investigation, police concluded that no crime was committed, even though the office still couldn’t account for $50 that was missing.
The investigation was triggered by a complaint from an electrician who suspected that a code enforcement employee had overcharged him and pocketed the extra money.
The detective who interviewed the electrician did a fine job. (The electrician also provided a clear, coherent account of what he thought happened, along with a well-organized set of supporting documents.)
What’s noteworthy about the detective’s report? He used straightforward sentences and short paragraphs. The report is thorough, objective, and professional. What’s especially impressive is his use of a timesaving list. (Think of how long it would have taken to write each item as a complete sentence!)
Mr. Zewe provided this detective with the following documentation:
- A timeline detailing his electrical license renewal
- A copy of his cash payment receipt
- A copy of the envelope that his license was mailed in
- A copy of his electrical license from the City of Kenner
- A 2 page copy of Mrs. Gautreaux’s City of Kenner employment application
- A 47 page copy of federal court papers regarding Mrs. Gautreaux’s conviction
- A list of city employees and their telephone numbers who may have information
- regarding possible activity
- A copy of a two page letter addressed to Mayor Yenni from Jack Zewe
- A copy of a letter to Mayor Yenni from Councilman Carroll
- A copy of a letter to Councilman Carroll from Mayor Yenni
Could it be improved? Yes (of course that’s true of most writing!). Here are some suggestions:
- Use “I” instead of “this detective”
- Simplify some of the terminology. For example, write “I phoned Mr. Zewe but didn’t reach him” is better than “This detective attempted to contact Mr. Zewe telephonically and did not receive an answer.”
- Omit some of the wordiness. For example “Based on the above facts” is unnecessary.
- A list could be used for much of Jack Zewe’s statement.
- Use “told” instead of “advised,” which should be saved for actual advice. For example: “Mr. Zewe advised that he believes…” could be rewritten “Mr. Zewe said that he believes…” or (more efficiently) “Mr. Zewe believes…”
If you’re a real stickler (a good thing!), you might want to make the numbers consistent. The report mixes words (two) and numerals (2, 47). (A good practice is to spell out numbers one through nine and use numerals for higher numbers.) Hyphens are needed in several places: A 47-page copy, a two-page copy.
Overall, however, this is an excellent report.