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.

An Excellent Magazine Article

Steve Albrecht is an excellent police writer and a terrific teacher! He published “A Report-Writing Refresher” in the May, 2021 issue of Police Magazine. It is worth reading! Click the link and take a look.

Steve gives some excellent advice about sentence length, avoiding jargon, using active voice, and other issues that show up again and again.

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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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Your Friday Quiz

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

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

1. I spent alot of time answering questions about what our department does.

2. The car wouldn’t start, it had a dead battery.

 3. We’re determined not to loose this weekend’s softball game.

Part 2:  What essential information is missing from this sentence?

Julian Santaguido was booked into the county jail.

ANSWERS

Part I:

1.  I spent a lot of time answering questions about what our department does. [A lot is always two words.]

2. The car wouldn’t start. It had a dead battery. [Make sure every sentence ends with a period. Remember that it often starts a new sentence.

3. We’re determined not to lose this weekend’s softball game. [We’re is correct! It’s a contraction of we are. The problem word is lose (to mislay something). Here’s a useful trick: Loose rhymes with moose.]

Part 2:

Who booked him?

Officer Penney booked Julian Santaguido into the county jail.  CORRECT

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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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Jean’s Latest Article

I’ve just had an article about report writing published in Standards and Training Director Magazine!

Click here to read the whole article (it’s short!) on pages 21-22: “Practical Strategies for Better Police Reports.”

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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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Challenge Yourself!

The Sherman Police Department in Texas just released the summary of a police report about a theft. It’s a well-written and very professional summary (not a police report).

Here’s a challenge for you:  Find five passive-voice sentences and change them to active voice. I’ve posted the answers below.

On June 4, 2021, Sherman Police Department received a phone call regarding a theft in progress in the 600 block of North Creek Drive.  The suspect fled in truck. The vehicle was stopped by responding officers.  The driver was detained.  Upon officer’s arrival, it was found that the suspect had left the store with over one thousand dollars worth of copper material and other merchandise.  The suspect was arrested for theft of material aluminum/bronze/copper/brass under $20K.  Robinson was booked into the Grayson County Jail.


Here are the five passive-voice sentences and the active-voice versions: 

1. 

The vehicle was stopped by responding officers.  PASSIVE

Responding officers stopped the vehicle.  ACTIVE

2. 

The driver was detained.  PASSIVE

Officer Curry detained the driver.  ACTIVE

3. 

Upon officer’s arrival, it was found that the suspect had left the store with over one thousand dollars worth of copper material and other merchandise.  PASSIVE

I learned that the suspect had left the store with over one thousand dollars worth of copper material and other merchandise.  ACTIVE

4. 

The suspect was arrested for theft of material aluminum/bronze/copper/brass under $20K.   PASSIVE

I arrested the suspect for theft of material aluminum/bronze/copper/brass under $20K.  ACTIVE

5.

Robinson was booked into the Grayson County Jail.  PASSIVE

I booked Robinson into the Grayson County Jail.  ACTIVE


How did you do?

Do you think this activity will help you avoid passive voice in the future? Great!

____________________________________________________________

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.

Share

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.

quiz in golden stars background

 

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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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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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