A Short Video about Police Reports

Gordon Graham, founder of Lexapro, provides a wide range of resources for public safety officers. Here’s a short  (and and excellent) video he posted recently about report writing:

https://www.lexipol.com/resources/todays-tips/effective-public-safety-report-preparation/

My thanks to Coach Sokolove from Field Training Associates for providing this link.

Four arrows with the words clear, complete, concise, and correct.

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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.

“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 Alvin Kamara Arrest Report

In February, New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara was arrested for assault in Las Vegas. You can read the police report below.

A line or two at the bottom seems to be missing. A news story about the case states that a video confirms what Detective Bone reported.

The report is remarkably well written! Detective Bone is an excellent writer. The sentence structure is professional. Everything is written in active voice. The word choices are natural and simple.

My only question is about some of the repetition. Detective Bone identifies himself twice, for example. The report includes an event number. Nowadays that information should have been recorded elsewhere on the laptop. Detectives are busy! They shouldn’t be required to write basic facts twice.

Otherwise, however, this is a superb report! I recommend studying it and using it as a model.

Photo by Euphoric Orca

 

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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 English usage errors in these sentences. (Some sentences may not have errors.)

a)  The homeowner asked Officer Cooper and me to check on the elderly woman who lived next door.
b)  The childrens’ aunt forgot to pick them up after school.
c)  The EMT told Forster to breath deeply and exhale into a paper bag.

Part 2  Choose the best answer for each question below

1) What important information is missing from the sentences below?

a)  The scraps of cloth and coffee cup were logged into the evidence room.
b)  I patted down Rogers because he was acting suspiciously.

2)  Which sentence is appropriate for a police report? Choose one answer.

a)  Davis expressed that he had a doctor’s appointment at three o’clock.
b)  I advised Lydia to see a doctor about the cut on her arm.
c)  Johnson advised me that the driver failed to stop when the light turned red.

ANSWERS

Part 1 

a)  The homeowner asked Officer Cooper and me to check on the elderly woman who lived next door. [Think: “asked me” – so it’s “asked Officer Cooper and me.” Shortening a sentence this way can often help you choose the correct word quickly.]
X b)  The children’s aunt forgot to pick them up after school.  [The apostrophe goes after the last letter of the word or name. Children ends with “n,” so it’s children’s aunt.]
X c)  The EMT told Forster to breathe deeply and exhale into a paper bag. [A breath is a thing. Breathe is an action.]

Part 2  Choose the best answer for each question below

1) What important information is missing from the sentences below?

a)  The scraps of cloth and coffee cup were logged into the evidence room.  [Who logged in the cloth and the cup? Use active voice: “I logged the scraps of cloth and coffee cup into the evidence room.”]
b)  I patted down Rogers because he was acting suspiciously.  [You didn’t provide probable cause to search Rogers. What behavior – specifically – made you suspicious? For example, perhaps Rogers looked over his shoulder every two or three steps.]

2)  Which sentence is appropriate for a police report? Choose one answer.

X a)  Davis expressed said that he had a doctor’s appointment at three o’clock. [Use simple, normal English.]
b)  I advised Lydia to see a doctor about the cut on her arm.  [Advised is correct because you’re counseling her.]
X c)  Johnson advised told me that the driver failed to stop when the light turned red. [Save advised for giving counsel. Use simple, normal English: told.]

How did you do?

quiz in golden stars background

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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.

“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 1  Correct the English usage errors in these sentences. (Some sentences may not have errors.) 

a) I saw the suspect run toward First Street, then Officer Linton chased him.
b) There’s three people waiting to talk to you.
c) The car passed me and turned right on Hollis Avenue.

Part 2  Answer the questions below.

1) Here’s a type of sentence that often appears in police reports. What should the next sentence be? “I looked for footprints on the kitchen floor.”

2)  Which version is most appropriate for a police report? Choose one answer.

a) Axel stood up and slapped his wife on the right cheek. I handcuffed him.
b) Axel stood up and slapped his wife on the right cheek. I proceeded to handcuff him.
c)  Axel stood up and slapped his wife on the right cheek, whereupon I handcuffed him.

ANSWERS

Part 1

a) I saw the suspect run toward First Street. Then Officer Linton chased him. [Don’t try to join two sentences with then. Use a period and a capital letter.]
b) There are three people waiting to talk to you.  [Flip the words, and you’ll instantly know which word is correct – is or are. “Three people are there.” “There are three people.”]
c) The car passed me and turned right on Hollis Avenue.  [CORRECT! The verb forms are pass, passed, passing.]

Part 2

1)  ANSWER: The next sentence should state whether or not you found any footprints.

2)  Which version is most appropriate for a police report? Choose one answer.

a) Axel stood up and slapped his wife on the right cheek. I handcuffed him.
X b) Axel stood up and slapped his wife on the right cheek. I proceeded to handcuff him.  [Be efficient! You don’t need “I proceeded.”]
X c)  Axel stood up and slapped his wife on the right cheek, whereupon I handcuffed him. [Be efficient! You don’t need “whereupon.” Make this two short sentences.]

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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.

“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 Zoe Bethel Police Report

On February 18, former Miss Alabama Zoe Bethel jumped from a third-floor balcony and died. She was 27 years old. You can read the full story at this link.
You can read the police report at this link: https://henryclubs.com/miss-alabama-zoe-sozo-runs-full-speed-to-railing-of-bethel-third-floor-balcony/

Today I’m going to be talking about brevity. Police officers are busy people; so are the people who read police reports – police chiefs, district attorneys, reporters, and many others.

I’m going to ask you to read the original report and then compare a briefer version. You’ll notice that the original report is detailed, accurate, and objective. It’s also wordy. “Stated” is repeated five times, even though just one person was talking.

Here’s the original report:

Upon arrival, units observed subject of report (Zoe Sozo Bethel) a black female unresponsive laying on the ground on the west side of the building parking lot. Fire rescue Lt. Jackson responded to the scene and transported SR to Jackson Memorial Hospital Trauma Center. Witness Santiago Roman who was the brother of SR stated he and SR were at a restaurant a couple of hours earlier and observed SR take an unknown amount of an unknown suspected narcotic. Witness asked SR what she was taking and she replied, “It’s something that makes me relax.” Witness stated once they arrived at the apartment she stated she was feeling hot and wanted to take a shower. Witness further stated SR after a shower and she got dressed and went out the front door to the hallway. Witness stated he went out to the hallway and observed SR acting erratically pacing back and forth. Witness stated when he went to approach SR she took off running westbound down the hallway and observed SR jump off the third floor of the building.

Here’s a more efficient version. The information is exactly the same, but this version is easier to read and 16 percent shorter (Notice that only the witness statement uses a list. The rest of the report is written normally.)

Upon arrival, units saw Zoe Sozo Bethel, a black female, unresponsive lying on the ground on the west side of the building parking lot. Fire rescue Lt. Jackson responded to the scene and transported Bethel to Jackson Memorial Hospital Trauma Center. 

Witness Santiago Roman is Bethel’s brother. He told me:

      • He and Bethel were at a restaurant a couple of hours earlier
      • He saw her take an unknown amount of an unknown suspected narcotic
      • Bethel told him, “It’s something that makes me relax” 
      • They went back to the apartment
      • She said was feeling hot and wanted to take a shower
      • After the shower she got dressed and went out the front door to the hallway
      • He went out to the hallway and saw her pacing back and forth
      • When he approached her, she took off running westbound down the hallway
      • He saw her jump off the third floor of the building

Which report do you think is a better use of an officer’s time?

Police departments that value efficiency encourage officers to use a list when recording a lengthy statement from a witness. (Lists may have other uses too – recording stolen items, for example.) Try a list and see for yourself!

 

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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 English usage errors in these sentences. (Some sentences may not have errors.)

a) Lisa’s mother told me that she had been watching TV when the electricity suddenly went off.
b)  I questioned he and his wife separately.
c)  Grogan refused to except any help from his daughter.

Part 2  Choose the best answer for each question below

1) Officer Joan Littleton just graduated from the academy. She’s eager to impress her supervisor. What advice would you give her? You may choose more than one answer.

a)  Don’t read over your report when it’s finished: you need to work quickly.
b)  Use fancy word choices and sentence structure that will impress your supervisor.
c)  If you have a choice between a simple word and a fancy one, choose the simple one.

2)  Which sentence is appropriate for a police report? Choose one answer.

a)  I arrived at the scene.
b)  I saw a bruise on Wagner’s right forearm.
c)  I did not believe what Wagner was telling me.

ANSWERS

Part 1 

a) Lisa’s mother told me that Lisa had been watching TV when the electricity suddenly went off.  OR Lisa’s mother said, “I was watching TV when the electricity suddenly went off.”  [She is confusing because there are two females in the sentence. Rewrite the sentence to indicate who had been watching TV.]

b)  I questioned he him and his wife separately.  [Shorten the sentence and you’ll instantly hear the right word: “I questioned him….”]

c)  Grogan refused to except accept any help from his daughter.  [Except means “but.”]

Part 2  Choose the best answer for each question below

1) Officer Joan Littleton just graduated from the academy. She’s eager to impress her supervisor. What advice would you give her? You may choose more than one answer.

X  a)  Don’t read over your report when it’s finished: you need to work quickly. [Never submit anything you haven’t checked for errors.]
X  b)  Use fancy word choices and sentence structure that will impress your supervisor.  [Police reports should be efficient. Use plain words and simple sentences.]
c)  If you have a choice between a simple word and a fancy one, choose the simple one.

2)  Which sentence is appropriate for a police report? Choose one answer.

X a)  I arrived at the scene. [Don’t waste time stating what’s obvious.]
b)  I saw a bruise on Wagner’s right forearm.
X c)  I did not believe what Wagner was telling me.  [This is an opinion that doesn’t belong in a professional police report.]

How did you do?

The word Quiz in red 3D letters to illustrate an exam, evaluation or assessment to measure your knowledge or expertise

 

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An Inaccurate Police Report

Sometimes we’re so busy with the mechanics of report writing that we lose sight of the big picture. Police reports are supposed to record what a particular officer saw, heard, and did. That’s all!

Today I’m going to talk about a report that did not fulfill that purpose. In September 2021, a woman named Mikhiel Whitlock was tried for assault with a deadly weapon. (You can read the story here.)

Problems began when the defense attorney started questioning the  officer who arrested Whitlock. It turned out that a second officer had provided some of the information in the report.

Here’s an excerpt from a news story about the trial. The officer began by insisting that the report truthfully recorded what he had seen.

The defense then asked why the officer would write that “John Doe followed [Whitlock] to the listed address in his vehicle and try to force [Whitlock] into his vehicle” if he did not have any first-hand knowledge of this occurrence.

The officer said that “the summary was written in a collection of the other officers’ reports,” and admitted he had received information from another officer.

Moments later the judge started asking questions about the accuracy of the report.

This story serves as a useful reminder to everyone who writes police reports: make sure you stick to the principles you’ve been taught!

Learning Quiz

 

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Your Friday Quiz

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

Part I Each of these sentences includes a poor word choice or phrase. Find each one.

a) When I questioned Barry Foster, he seemed confused.

b)  The car looked damaged, and I saw bruises on David’s neck.

c)  Farragut said that she would call me in the event that she remembered any other details.

Part 2  Which choice is more appropriate for a police report: a or b – and why?

a)  I left Carole Paley in the bedroom with Officer Keenan. I went into the back yard and looked for Carole’s daughter, Joan. I found Joan sitting at a picnic table. She was crying. I sat down and talked with her.
Joan told me:
– She hated her stepfather and was afraid of him.
– He often made her mother cry.
– She had seen him hit her mother many times.
– Her stepfather had never hit her or her brother or sister.
– They were afraid because he was angry all the time.
– He left the house about a half hour ago.
-She heard him tell her mother, “I’m going to kill you when I come back.”

b)  I left Carole Paley in the bedroom with Officer Keenan. I went into the back yard and looked for Carole Paley’s daughter, Joan. I found Joan sitting at a picnic table. She was crying. I sat down and talked with her.
Joan told me that she hated her stepfather and was afraid of him. She told me that he often made her mother cry. In response to my questions, she said that had seen him hit her mother many times. She added that he had never hit any of the Paley children, including her. I asked why they were afraid of him, whereupon she said it was because he was angry all the time.
When I asked when he left the house, she said that it was
about half an hour ago. She said she heard him tell her mother, “I’m going to kill you when I come back.”

ANSWERS

Part I

a) When I questioned Barry Foster, he seemed confused. [Confused isn’t specific enough. Describe how you knew he was confused. Did he ignore your questions? Ask you to keep repeating them? Have difficulty finding the words he wanted? Give you answers that didn’t make sense?]

b)  The car looked damaged, and I saw bruises on David’s neck. [Damaged is vague. Describe what you saw: a crumbled fender, a slashed tire, or scraped marks, for example.]

c)  Farragut said that she would call me in the event that she remembered any other details.  [In the event that is wordy. Use if.]

Part 2  Choice a) is more appropriate because it’s more efficient. Choice b) has a lot of repetition, and many of the words are unnecessary. There’s no need to write out your questions or keep repeating “she said.” Just list what Joan told you. (Notice that even though the list in choice a) is more efficient, it includes all the information that Joan gave you.)

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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. 

 
 
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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.

“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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Should Cops Use Scientific Terminology?

Doug Wyllie from Police magazine has just published an interesting article that’s relevant to police reports: Focus of Attention – Integrating Heady Concepts into Regular Police Training. (Click the link to read it.)

Wyllie is especially interested in how officers are trained to deal with use-of-force situations. He offers practical advice about scientific terms like “inattentional blindness” and “auditory exclusion” that might be misused and misunderstood in a courtroom.

He notes that trainers need to prepare officers to use these terms with precision to avoid complications later on. He adds that often it’s better to avoid the scientific terms and use your own words to describe what happened at the scene.

There’s a police report connection too. The article quotes retired sergeant James Borden:  “I avoid using these terms in a report. What I would say is the officer was intensely focused on this particular threat and did not perceive the other aspects that we potentially see in video [after the fact].”

Wyllie’s article is well worth reading!

A message that Words Have Power

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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.

“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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