Any tips on how to write better reports. I need to condense and get the key points. I have major writers block. Can anyone recommend a book or some key points to remember...
I write my reports in a chronological style.
GETTING THE CALL...
On 12-27-05 at approximately XX:XX hours, I responded to 1235 Any Street, in ANY COUNTY, Florida, in reference to a XXXXXXXXXX complaint/call/situation, etc.
-Set the tone for the reader, let them know what you "believed" you were respondeding to, although this may change while headed to the call...
While enroute, dispatch advised me that (note any changes, updates, etc to the call).
ARRIVING AT THE SCENE/CALL
Upon arrival, I made contact with XXXXXXXX/ Upon arrival I observed XXXXXXXXX
-List who you made contact with.
-List what you observed, saw, smelled, heard, etc.
Basically, let the reader know what you discovered UPON ARRIVAL.
RESULTS OF INVESTIGATION/INTERVIEWS, SEPERATELY ANNOTATED
-Mr./Mrs. Smith stated ....................................................................
This is where you list WHAT someone said or WHAT you observed as well as WHAT you found that supported or did not support previous claims, etc.
ACTIONS BASED ON THE ABOVE
-This is where I tell the reader what my conclusions were and what my response was, such as arrest or simply documentation for future consideration, as well as why I took no action if no LE action was taken.
-Also list what forms, statements, pamphlets were given/taken in accordance with policy/law.
-What evidence was gathered and how, what was done with it.
There is a TON of stuff left out here but basically your report needs to addressWHEN and WHY you went somewhere or WHEN/WHY you did something; WHAT you heard from WHO, saw, smelled, felt, etc; and WHAT you did or didn't do because of it................
Feel free to e-mail me with a phone number and I'd be glad to talk about it with you.
As an FTO, I preach to my rookies one overriding theme: don't make the next person who reads the report, whether sgt, detective, or FTO, ask any questions you could have asked and had answered.
Two other things:
- always get phone numbers
- turn the caps lock key off...all caps makes it really hard to read, IMHO
I start with approximately what time it was, where I needed to go to take a call or where I was at when alerted to criminal activity, who asked for assistance, then the main gist of my involvement. The next paragraphs describe chronologically what I witnessed, observed, or did.
For reports for arrests I like to put in the first paragraph who I arrested and what for. That way when the prosecutor reads my report they don't have to dig for who got arrested and what the charge is.
Something like: At approximately 0200 HRS on January 1st, 2006 I arrested (S)Major Duffman for Driving Under the Influence.
Then run my chronological narrative to explain what alerted me to the arrested and what happened to lead me to that arrest, so when I get to that point I put "At this time I placed (S)Duffman under arrest".
Being an investigator and a real stickler for patrol reports. Bowhnter6pt's method is really preferred and if you think about it makes the most sence. Make clear concise statements, never assume, and try to stay away from LEO terms. If a person(s) has been arrested they are defendants, if not he is either a witness or a suspect.
Everybody has a cell phone, add that info to your report.
Great advice here and exactly what I did when I first got on the job.
I'm lucky because my agency hires civilian transcriptionists. I just call the phone number enter badge number and case number and talk away.
There is something I could do better in my reports.
One thing I got from my third FTO and I like a lot is getting everyone's relationship out of the way first.
CV/Jones Edith W. and S/Turdick Latrone L have two children in common, reside together at the listed address and have been in this relationship for 10 years. W1/Jones Jasmine R. and W2/Jones Tyrese L. are the bioligical children of both Edith and Latrone. All parties reside at the listed address. Jasmine and Tyrese were present during the incident.
On the listed date and time I was patrolling 3F34, uniformed and marked, when I was dispatched to a reported domestic disturbance. I arrived and contacted.........
I was told that this makes it easier to read for the follow up detectives if you lay out the relationships first, especially when a lot of relatives are involved.
I'm not a LEO but an EMT. All the above advice closely follows the training we received for our run reports. We were also taught to only report factual things, not conclusions or feelings. E.g. "The patient's breath and general odor smelled like alcohol and there were 5 empty beer bottles on the kitchen counter." or "The patient could not stand up without swaying." Not "The patient appeared intoxicated." or worse "The patient was intoxicated." That way a) we did not diagnose (only doc's can do that where we are) and b) if we ever had to go to court you didn't have to spend an hour answering questions about why you thought the patient was drunk, disorderly, dead, etc. and trying to remember stuff from a year ago.
I heard this one a lot during training: Who did what, when, where. how, what with, why?
My reports vary a little bit depending on which Sgt. I'm working for. My tendency is to cover EVERYTHING that happened - 10 yrs as a mechanical engineer will do that. Some Sgt.'s like all the details, some prefer the condensed version.
For me it's not a matter of taking too much time for the detailed reports, it's just a matter of what the Sgt. likes.
"Obs drunk driver, arrested same."