Today I’m going to ask you to evaluate a police report.
First, some background: In 2014, Ed FitzGerald was the Democratic candidate for governor of Ohio, running against Republican John Kasich.
At 4:30 a.m. on October 13, 2014, someone spotted FitzGerald and a woman in a nearly vacant parking lot. Police were called to investigate, found nothing wrong, and left. The story raised questions about FitzGerald’s character (he was married to another woman).
FitzGerald said the Republican party was adopting sleazy tactics to discredit him in the upcoming election.
Our focus here is on the police report. Suppose you were the officer’s supervisor. Would you ask for changes?
Here’s the FitzGerald report:
What did you decide?
I call this an effective report. It’s brief, objective, and complete. (Of course it would be better to have spelled out “reports”!) There’s no jargon.
Police reports shouldn’t read like novels. There’s no need for long, fancy sentences. Get the facts down, and you’re done.
Take a look at the first sentence: it doesn’t include the date, time, or location, or the officer’s name and ID number. You would already have typed them into the appropriate spaces in your laptop. There’s no need to do it again.
Your narrative should start with the beginning of the story – and that’s exactly how this report was written.
(Follow-up: Governor Kasich was re-elected.)