Report Writing Advice for Police Officers

Learn How to Write Stellar Police Reports

Policeman taking notes
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If you work in law enforcement, you know full well that no matter how good you may be at getting the bad guys off the street, they won't stay gone long if you can't write a good report. In fact, report writing is one of the most important skills to have in any criminal justice career. For those of you who want to boost your skills, here's some advice on how to write great police reports.

Know Your Audience

Before you even think about putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you should first consider who it is you're writing the report for to begin with.

A lot of people are going to read that report: lawyers, judges, news reporters, your supervisor and the defendant, to name just a few.

With that in mind, your message needs to be clear, concise and easily understandable by all interested parties, as opposed to a select few. Thus, keep your sentences short and your words shorter. Stay away from police jargon and cop-speak, and use normal, everyday language instead of tons of multi-syllabic, superfluous (big, unnecessary) words so that anyone who reads it can comprehend.

Tell a Story

The flow of your story should be logical. Structure it in such a way that makes sense to your readers. In truth, a police report is just a story, albeit a true story. And like any other story, a police report should have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

The beginning will introduce the scene and tell the audience when and why you got the call and what it was in reference to.

The middle of the story, then, would be all the things you did to investigate the situation. Talk about what you saw when you got there, what evidence you found and how you found it, who you talked to, and what those people said.

Finally, the ending to your story would be what you concluded based on all the information you collected and what you did about it.

In short, your audience should read your report and be able to easily understand how you came to that conclusion and why you took that action.

Double Check Your Facts

If you took good notes and gathered witness statements, be sure to re-read them before writing your report. If you have an in-car or body-worn camera, make sure you review the footage.

Whatever else your report contains, it better not contain factual errors, since errors of fact will destroy not only your case ?but your credibility. And with the proliferation of cameras to record police, those factual errors will be made out to be glaring omissions or falsifications.

Proofread, Proofread, Proofread!

After you've told your story and double checked your facts, it's time to check for spelling and grammatical errors that could hamper perceptions about your intelligence and ability.

If spelling and grammar aren't your strong suits, consider composing your report in a word processing program that can spell check for you, or carry a dictionary and thesaurus in your patrol car. You can also use online dictionaries, spell checkers and even tips from  the  Grammar and Composition expert.

Write for the Sake of Right

Your ability to communicate effectively through your written reports will probably be the skill you use most after your emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills.

Learn to hone them both, and you will be well on your way to becoming a great police officer.