I used to work with an academy instructor who had a great system for teaching report writing. I learned a lot from her!
One thing she often said to nervous students has really stayed with me: Do each part of the report separately.
Very often police calls are stressful. You might have to talk to several people to figure out what happened.
My colleague always warned academy students not to try to tell the story all at once, in one big ball. Have a separate paragraph for each person you talked to.
Here’s a true story we used when we taught together. A toddler was enrolled in a preschool program. His classroom was on the second floor of a school building.
A young man walking a dog near the school looked up and saw the boy hanging from a window. The man talked to a para-professional, who told the principal, who called 911. By the time the officer arrived, the child was standing up. He had fallen onto a pile of dirt from a chicken coop on the school grounds.
The only part you witnessed firsthand was seeing the child on the pile of dirt. How do you write all of this in a report?
Here’s an excerpt from the narrative of the actual report:
Event #07779 in summary, responded to a call of a child who had fallen from a second story window at the Oscar Mayer School located at 2250 N. Clifton. R/O was met by the principal X who related that she had been alerted by X (Para-professional) at the school that a student was hanging from a second story window located in Classroom #213. X had been outside with a group of students and had been alerted by a young male walking his dog by the school that the victim was hanging out of the window.
Here’s an alternative that I think is better. Notice that in my version, I omitted the school address. It would already be recorded on your laptop. (I’ve also invented the names in the report.)
Notice too that I kept my sentences short. The first sentence in the actual report (above) has 63 words. There’s no reason to cram that much information into one sentence!
On December 8 I responded to a call about a child who had fallen from a second story window at the Oscar Mayer School. I saw the child, Herbert Callon, with a paraprofessional, Mary Jones.
I checked Herbert for injuries and saw that he wasn’t seriously hurt. I called for an ambulance to take him to Lurie’s Children Hospital for further examination.
I spoke to the principal, Catherine Flaherty. She told me that a young man named Frank Maserty was walking his dog past the school. He heard a child’s voice and looked up. He saw a little boy hanging out of a second-floor window.
Frank saw Mary Jones with a group of children on the school playground. He ran over to Mary and pointed to the little boy. They both saw the little boy fall onto a pile of dirt from a chicken coop on the school grounds.
Mary checked the little boy, Herbert Callon, and then took him to the principal’s office. The principal called 911.
Back to my teaching colleague. She used to remind academy students that a police report is just a story. Take it in small parts, use your thinking skills, and you’ll do fine.