Category Archives: police reports

Writing tips, English usage and grammar review, and news stories for officers and other criminal justice professionals who deal with police reports.

Your Friday Quiz

This short quiz will help you sharpen your writing skills. Answers are posted below.

Part I: Correct the errors in these sentences. Some sentences may have more than one error.

1. Mike Worley told me that the Johnson’s often have loud parties at their home.

2. Many residents say that speeding cars are there principle concern.

 3. I spoke to a women who lives on Acre Lane.

Part 2:  Rewrite this sentence to make it more concise:

Mr. Franker expressed to me that is now a manager of the Better Athletes store on Fifth Street.

ANSWERS

Part I:

1. Mike Worley told me that the Johnsons often have loud parties at their home. [The apostrophe is wrong. Use apostrophes only in “of” expressions: Mr. Johnson’s car.]

2. Many residents say that speeding cars are their [not there] principal [not principle] concern.

3. I spoke to a woman [not women] who lives on Acre Lane.

Part 2:

Mr. Franker told me that he’s a manager at the Better Athletes store on Fifth Street.

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 Criminal Justice Report Writing by Jean Reynolds is available from Amazon.com for the low price of $17.95. For a free preview, click on the link or the picture below.

Updated, with a new chapter on Writing Efficiently

“It will definitely help you with your writing skills.” – Joseph E. Badger, California Association of Accident Reconstructionists Newsletter

Criminal Justice Report Writing is also available as an e-book in a variety of formats for $9.99: Click here.

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The Benefits of Journaling

My friend Coach Sokolove sent me a link to an article that has some terrific writing advice for a special group of criminal justice professionals: men and women in leadership positions.

Let me add another group: any officer who wants to be a leader.

The article explains how a simple tool – an empty notebook – can help you sharpen your thinking and writing skills. And that’s just the beginning! Highly recommended. Click this link to get started:

https://www.officer.com/command-hq/article/21139494/the-art-of-journaling-for-leaders

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Danny Fluker

Baltimore Ravens lineman D.J. Fluker has allegedly been a repeated victim of domestic abuse, according to police documents. Fluker has had a long-term relationship with Kimberly Davis. They have a child together.

Davis was arrested on July 13 after she allegedly punched Fluker in the nose.

You can learn more here: https://foxbaltimore.com/sports/baltimore-ravens/police-baltimore-ravens-dj-fluker-a-victim-of-domestic-violence

You can read excerpts from the report below. My comments and suggestions follow.

Here’s what I noticed:

  • This is an objective and professional report. The details are excellent. But it’s wordy! Police officers are busy men and women. Reports should be concise.
  • The officer already recorded the address, date, and time. It’s a waste of time to repeat them in the first sentence of the narrative. That’s an outdated report writing practice.
  • This officer is another outdated usage. “I” and “me” are fine professional words.
  • Advised is the wrong word for this police report. Fluker told the officer what happened. “Advised” means counseled.

Here’s a more concise version of the report:

I met with Danny Fluker. He told me he was arguing about events on social media with his girlfriend, Kimberly Davis. She struck him in the nose with her closed fist. This was not the first time she assaulted him. I saw dried blood coming from his nose. I did not take pictures.

I met with Jacob Rice, a close friend of Danny and Kimberly. He lives with them. He saw Kimberly strike Danny. He filled out a witness statement.

I met with Kimberly Davis. She told me she poked Danny in the nose during the argument. She was angry because he said she was a bad mother to their child, Kasrielle Fluker. She did not mean to cause harm or injury. Her fingernails could have accidentally scratched his nose and caused the bleeding.

Danny and Kimberly have lived together for three years and have one child in common.

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Sign up for our FREE Police Writer e-Newsletter and receive a free copy of “10 Days to Better Police Reports,” ready to download! Your privacy is protected: We NEVER share emails with third parties.

 
 
 
____________________________________________________________

 Criminal Justice Report Writing by Jean Reynolds is available from Amazon.com for the low price of $17.95. For a free preview, click on the link or the picture below.

Updated, with a new chapter on Writing Efficiently

“It will definitely help you with your writing skills.” – Joseph E. Badger, California Association of Accident Reconstructionists Newsletter

Criminal Justice Report Writing is also available as an e-book in a variety of formats for $9.99: Click here.

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Make a Good Report Even Better

In June 2016, an Iowa man named Dusten Kemp threatened to shoot a Domino’s Pizza delivery driver. You can read the affidavit below. (To learn more about the incident, click here.)

This is a well written narrative – efficient, objective, and thorough.

I’m especially impressed that the officer who wrote it put the periods inside the quotation marks. Many writers don’t know how to punctuate quotations – but this officer did it correctly.

Domino's Pizza

Still, this is a good opportunity to look at some writing issues.

1. Take a look at this sentence:

When the delivery driver arrived at the address given and turned the pizza’s over, the driver stated that the defendant was drunk and took his clothes off.

  • Pizza’s is wrong. The plural of pizza is pizzas. (Apostrophes belong in of expressions: “There was cheese in the pizza’s crust.”)
  •  “The address given” is unnecessary. Where else would Domino’s deliver a pizza?
  • The driver’s statement is confusing. In the report, it sounds as if the driver talked to police at Kemp’s home. That’s not what happened. The police talked to both men at Domino’s Pizza.
  • Be careful with “he” when there are two males. Make sure readers aren’t confused about who did what: Kemp or Smith?

Here’s how the sentence could have been written:

When the driver arrived at the address, he saw that Kemp was drunk and had taken his clothes off.

2. This sentence should be more specific: what threats did Kemp make? And you should use Kemp’s name, not the subject. Aim to make your reports easy for others to read.

He stated that the subject then grabbed his arm and made several threats about them messing up his order.  VAGUE

Smith said, “Kemp grabbed my arm and threatened to kill me because of last night’s mistake.”  BETTER

3. The report could be written more efficiently. Nowadays officers have laptops with spaces for the date, time, and address. Don’t waste time repeating information you’ve already recorded.

Here’s how the beginning of the report could have been written:

We arrived at Domino’s Pizza and questioned Kemp and Smith. Smith works for Domino’s Pizza delivering pizzas. Kemp is a Domino’s customer.

Kemp said that last night he ordered a Domino’s pizza. The driver made a mistake with the delivery. Domino’s promised to send a free pizza tonight.

Smith said he arrived at Kemp’s home with a free pizza. Kemp was drunk and not wearing clothing. Smith said, “Kemp grabbed my arm and threatened to kill me because of last night’s mistake.”  BETTER

Overall, however, it’s an excellent report.

Domino's Pizza

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Your Friday Quiz

This short quiz will help you sharpen your writing skills. Answers are posted below.

Part I  Correct the errors in the sentences below.

1. Peyton said, “I didn’t put anything into her drink”.

2. Several of us have been studing hard for the sergeants’ exam next month.

3. Captain Fillmore updated us about COVID-19 recommendations, then she answered our questions.

Part II  Read the two sentences below. Then choose the best response: a, b, or c.

#1 I ascertained that the aforementioned Stanley Willis was in fact the same person named as responsible for the damage to the car owned by the person who reported the incident, namely Gail Albertson.

#2 Gail Albertson told me that Stanley Willis had damaged her car.

a) #1 has more useful information

b) #2 has more useful information

c) #3 both have the same amount of useful information

ANSWERS

Part I  Correct the errors in the sentences below.

1. Peyton said, “I didn’t put anything into her drink.”  [In the US, periods and commas always go inside quotation marks. There are no exceptions.]

2. Several of us have been studying hard for the sergeants’ exam next month. [studying, not studing]

3. Captain Fillmore updated us about COVID-19 recommendations, and then she answered our questions.  [You can’t join two sentences with then. Use and then, along with a comma.]

Part II  Read the two sentences below. Then choose the best response: a, b, or c.

a) I ascertained that the aforementioned Stanley Willis was in fact the same person named as responsible for the damage to the car owned by the person who reported the incident, namely Gail Albertson.

b) Gail Albertson told me that Stanley Willis had damaged her car.

a) #1 has more useful information

b) #2 has more useful information

c) #3 both have the same amount of useful information:

    • I interviewed Gail Albertson
    • She reported damage to her car
    • She said that Stanley Willis caused the damage

Sentence #2 is a better choice for a police report. Short, factual sentences save time for everyone.

How did you do?

The word quiz spelled out in Scrabble pieces

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Some Practical Tips

Effective police reports are the result of several factors: good academy training, lots of practice, and a desire to keep learning.

Sometimes, though, it’s small changes that add up to success. Here are a few practical tips. Is there an idea in this list that you can start using?

  • keep a small notebook and pen in your pocket
  • know how to spell the names of towns and streets in your service area
  • spend a few minutes every day listening to a conversation or a news snippet – and try to recite it accurately from memory
  • keep your sentences short and simple
  • use “told,” not “advised”
  • start every sentence with the person doing the action (“I drove Parker to jail” rather than “Parker was transported to jail”)
  • make a list of words that give you trouble
  • find a writing partner so that you can work on your writing skills together

Don’t feel overwhelmed – you don’t have to do all of them at once! Pick one, and get started today. You’ll be surprised by the improvement in your reports!

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A Happy Ending for a Preschooler

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.

Whew.

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.

On the job training OJT

 

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Your Friday Quiz

This short quiz will help you sharpen your writing skills. Answers are posted below.

PART 1  Correct the errors in the sentences below.

  1. Muriel Albertson told me that the Johnson’s usually return from church at about 11:45 AM.
  2. We tried not to breath because the smells were so strong.
  3. I wasn’t sure it was Frank Janick because the voice sounded differently from what I remembered.

PART 2

Imagine that you’ve met with Officer Josephson to talk about his inappropriate language with women. Now you’re going to document the meeting and include a sentence like the ones below. Read the sentences below, and then choose a, b, or c.

  1. I advised Josephson that he needed to use respectful language when talking to women.
  2. I told Josephson that he needed to use respectful language when talking to women.

   a) #1 is the better choice for criminal justice writing.
   b) #2 is the better choice for criminal justice writing.
   c)  Both sentences are appropriate for criminal justice writing.

ANSWERS

PART 1

  1. Muriel Albertson told me that the Johnsons usually return from church at about 11:45 AM.  [The Johnsons don’t own anything in this sentence. Omit the apostrophe.]
  2. We tried not to breathe because the smells were so strong. [Use breathe, not breath.]
  3. I wasn’t sure it was Frank Janick because the voice sounded different from what I remembered.  [Sounded different is correct. Omit the -ly.]

PART 2

  1. I advised Josephson that he needed to use respectful language when talking to women.
  2. I told Josephson that he needed to use respectful language when talking to women.

The correct answer is b. #2 is a better sentence because told is stronger than advised.

Advise is too weak for this situation. It means “to counsel” or “suggest.” You want a written record that you told Josephson what he needed to do. 

Learning Quiz

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Who or Whom?

Which word is correct in this sentence: who or whom?

He said he would find whoever/whomever was responsible for the attack.

The trick I use is to substitute he and him. He = who. Him = whom. (If this sounds crazy to you, please hang in with me for a moment. It will get easier – I promise!)

He said he would find he was responsible for the attack.

He said he would find him was responsible for the attack.

I know, I know. It sounds like a crazy system! But it works like a charm. You knew he (who) was the correct choice. That means whoever is correct too.

He said he would find whoever was responsible for the attack.  CORRECT

But I promised you an easier way, and here it is. Whom and whomever are disappearing from our language. I say good riddance! They don’t add anything helpful to a sentence. It’s a pesky distinction that’s not worth the time and effort. 

Just use who and whoever, and you’ll be fine. That’s a guarantee.

an owl saying "whom"

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Your Friday Quiz

This short quiz will help keep your writing skills sharp! Answers appear below.

Fix the errors in the sentences below:

1. She and her neighbor had a verbal agreement about keeping the hedge trimmed.

2. Samuels said he heard alot of noise outside at about 2 AM.

3. Johnson said “she saw the door was open when she came home.”

Here are three sentences. Which one is an example of good police writing?

1. Herewith is a summary of what Johnson told me.

2. In response to my question about what had ensued, Johnson provided me with the following information.

3. Johnson told me that the front door was open when she came home, and she immediately called 911.

ANSWERS

1. She and her neighbor had a verbal a spoken agreement about keeping the hedge trimmed.

[Verbal means “using words,” so it can refer to both writing and speech. Call it a spoken agreement or an oral agreement.]

2. Samuels said he heard a lot of noise outside at about 2 AM.

[A lot is two words.]

3. I asked Clarkson “when she usually returned home from work.”

[Use quotation marks only for someone’s exact words. Here are better versions of this sentence:

Johnson said she saw the door was open when she came home.

Johnson told me, “The front door was open when I came home.”]

Here are three sentences. Which one is an example of good police writing?

1. Herewith is a summary of what Johnson told me.

2. In response to my question about what had ensued, Johnson provided me with the following information.

3. Johnson told me that the front door was open when she came home, and she immediately called 911.

[The first two sentences are time wasters. Just write what Johnson told you. In most cases you don’t have to write down your own question.]

How did you do?

A cup of coffee with a message "Unlock your confidence"

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