Rules for Police Report Writing

Though few officers are drawn to the profession because of their love of writing descriptive statements, composing police reports is an important part of working in law enforcement. Quality police reports fully inform those working on a case on which they have not yet been briefed. Because these documents are commonly used in court, it is vital they be clearly and effectively composed. When composing their reports, police officers should keep certain rules in mind to ensure their written product is useful.

  1. Pay Attention to Details

    • In police work, the details can be tremendously important. When composing your report, don't cut corners or leave out details just because they don't appear important at the moment. Instead, record as many details as possible faithfully, as you don't know what might ultimately prove important as the investigation progresses.

    Record Exact Quotes from Witnesses

    • Witness testimony can provide some of the most valuable information. When recording witness statements in your police report, write them word for word. As the time passes, witness' memories will likely become increasingly hazy. If you record their initial statements in word-for-word detail, you can refer back to them later instead of requestioning witnesses whose memories of the events may have faded.

    Avoid Editorializing

    • Police reports should be completely factual. Do not include any opinion in your report. Nothing but irrefutable facts should be recorded. Avoid using words that could be seen as expressing opinions, such as "obviously," "clearly" or "importantly." By not editorializing, you ensure others who read the report can reach their own conclusions based solely on the facts presented to them.

    Don't Repeat Yourself Unnecessarily

    • While you want to include all important details, you do not want to fill your report with fluff. Avoid repeating details, such as the date and time of the event; including this information one time is sufficient. If you place too much filler in your report, you will produce a product difficult and tedious to read.

    Don't Rush

    • You may be eager to finish your reporting and return to the streets, but take your time when composing your report to create the highest quality report you possibly can. After composing an initial draft, reread your composition and make changes to ensure your final product is effective and useful to others.

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