report writing center

MY TEACHING PHILOSOPHY.

My philosophy on teaching is that there are many things one can lose in life, but nobody can steal one's education.  Some people believe that at a certain point one loses the ability to adapt and learn.  I do not believe such things as age or any other barriers can stop a person who has decided to learn no matter what the cost may be. 

I will give you a bit of a story about my journey in becoming a research author.  Some of my experience comes from two years of law school where I studied to become a lawyer, eight more years of college coursework to earn my Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice Administration with minor courses in psychology and obtaining a perfect grade in mastering scholarly writing and ultimately graduated my Master's program with distinction with a 4.0 GPA.  So, education is extremely important to me and I take my role as a teacher important but I also know that students learn best in happy and friendly environment.

sample of report writing training program

Definitions

What is a report?

A report can be made verbally about details on an incident or memorialized by a written document (any piece of paper) that can record information in the normal course of business, such as notes, narratives, emails, text communications, etc., and requires one to be careful what one writes and says out loud because anything can and will be used against one in the court of public opinion. 

What are the elements of a report?

All reports should follow the KISS rule, Keep It Simple Stupid.  The problem with using complex million dollar words, such as, the decedent was found in a supine position is confusing when a better statement would simply read: The patient  was found motionless on his back and was not breathing.  Rescue 49 was already on scene when they assessed the patient and determined he had been dead prior to the units arriving on scene.

Of course it is important to remember WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW, and WHY.  Most of the time, answering those questions will complete any necessary information requirements for an employer or consumer of the requested information but what about liability.  Is it easy to see a potential "Wrongful Death"  lawsuit arising from the first statement: "The decedent was found in a supine position" with nothing further to explain important details that the second version adds to protect the agency and individual officer from liability: "The patient was found motionless on his back and was not breathing" "Rescue 49 was already on scene when they assessed the patient and determined that he had been dead prior to units arriving on scene." The preceding sentence delivers a massive amount of information, first it shows teamwork between emergency responders and that law enforcement personnel did not stand around and watch a person die.  It kind of takes the wind out of the sails of any potential litigant.

Why do I need your training when I have been writing reports for years and have had no complaints?

To be perfectly honest with you, if you have the attitude that you write good enough than you might not get anything out of the course.  We do not want to correct your good habits, we just want to show you how to avoid bad habits and how to author a report that truly represents the facts without breaking the 3 laws of deception by using exaggerations, making bold face lies, or omitting information, such as exculpatory information to obstruct justice or destroy evidence.

Reports shall always be precise AND accurate.  Notice the emphasis on the word AND!!!

It is not well enough to be either or but rather must and shall be both precise AND accurate.  The best example is trying to drink water.  It is so much easier to drink from a glass but one can still drink from a firehose or sip water from one's own hands but why not just drink from a glass, it is so much easier.  By making a report precise and accurate, one does not have to worry about the consequences of being caught being deceptive.

Oral & Documented Communications

Major Parts of Speech

Noun: person, place, or thing.

Verbs: describes an action, i.e. walk, eat, be, etc.

Adjectives: Modifies another word, like blue or smooth.

Adverbs: Modify verbs, prepositions, other adverbs and usually end in -ly, i.e. happily, magically, etc.
Prepositions: Links with a noun, pronoun, or prepositional phrase. 

Pronouns: A linking phrase that stand in for a noun, such as he or she.

We Will Start You Out With Easy To Remember 15 Rules for Writing Reports

#1 An officer's report must be clear and concise.

#2 A sentence should contain a SUBJECT and a VERB (action), i.e. The dog runs. DOG is the subject and RUN is the verb.

#3 Do not try to write with style or pazazz, the point is to document and get out.

#4 The Author should avoid sentence fragments

#5 Avoid Run on sentences

#6 Do not use double negatives i.e. don't not go to the store???

#7 Avoid using passive language

#8 Do not use slang or police jargon

#9 Avoid repetition

#10 Be precise but not wordy

#11 Field notes should be used to record information about description of people, vehicles, and property involved

#12 Remember CYMBAL (Color, Year, Make, Body, and License)

#13 Use the spell check feature and correct the errors  

#14 Always have another party review your work

#15 Re-read your report again before you submit it to a supervisor, it really is faster when you only have to submit your report once.

Report Examples

Bad Example

DUI Investigation

On X/X/XX at xxxx hours, I (Ofc. Griffin) was driving west bound First and Main when I observed a red Ford F150 driving eastbound First from Main without headlights during a time of darkness.  I executed an enforcement stop and made contact with the operator of the vehicle who displayed indicators of intoxication (red watery eyes, odor of and alcoholic beverage emitting from his breath, and slurred speech blah blah bla... 

Why write out westbound when the abbreviation speeds up the report by using w/b.  First St., would suffice as a way to distinguish First St., from Ave., Pl., Ct., etc.  The same goes for distinguishing Main St., from Ave., Pl., etc.  When I "saw" a red Ford F150 is more of a precise way of establishes how to the observer identified that it was a vehicle and determined the description was by one's sight senses as opposed to any other sensory perception, such as hearing, feeling, or smelling, all of which will later be discussed when it comes to sensory input for probable cause.  What the heck is meant by, "I executed an enforcement stop and made contact with the operator of the vehicle" blah blah blah.  Just because the report is an "official report" it does not mean that one cannot speak with a normal professional communication by speaking normal, such as I made a traffic stop by turning on my emergency lights and sirens...  The language may not make one sound super cool, but it gets the point across in a precise and accurate manner.

Good Example

DUI Investigation

On X/X/XX at xxxx hours, I (Ofc. Griffin) was driving w/b First Ave., approaching Main St., in the A POCONOS Country Place when I heard loud music coming from ahead of my vehicle and getting louder as I drove toward the intersection (I/S) of w/b First Ave., and Main St.  I stopped at the red tri-light and when it changed to green, I drove through the I/S and noticed the loud noise was coming from a red 2015 Ford F-15, bearing PA tag # ABC1234.  The vehicle was also driving without its required headlights, which is one of the indicators of intoxication for driving behavior.  I made a legal U-turn and followed the vehicle for a two blocks and saw  when I observed the driver lane straddling and weaving between the E/B #1 and #2 lanes of First Ave. 

I made a traffic stop on the vehicle by activating my overhead emergency lights, with at least one steady red light to the front and sounded an audible siren which requires a motorist to safely pull to the right and stop their vehicle.  The driver continued to drive for an additional one mile and I saw the driver make several furtive movements by ducking down toward the right front passenger side of the vehicle, which indicated the driver may be attempting to hide contraband, potential evidence of criminal activity, or even weapons that the driver may decide to use to escape from custody placing my life in jeopardy.

As a result of the activity by the driver, I (Ofc. Griffin) called for backup to help me on the stop.  When Ofc. Smith arrived, I approached the driver's side of the vehicle and found the only occupant of the vehicle was (S) Joe BLO, who had red watery eyes, slurred speech, and the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from his breath.  All of these factors are objective symptoms of intoxication.  I asked (S) BLO if he had been drinking and he said, "Yeah, one big one."  (S) BLO laughed uncontrollably and blew snot out of his nose all over his face and did not seem to realize that he was covered in snot. 

I asked (S) BLO to exit the vehicle to test his sobriety.  (S) BLO used the door for support and was unsteady on his feet.  (S) belched several times during my interview and field testing.  (S) BLO was administered a series of field sobriety tests (SFSTs) in which he showed several objective indicators of intoxication:

RHOMBERG:

(S) BLO was explained when told to do so, to place his feet together, arms at his sides, tilt his head back, close his eyes, and estimate 60 seconds in his head.  This test one's internal clock and balance.  Subject BLO was administered a 60 second internal timing test, which I stopped after three minutes when (S) was wobbling so bad that the test was stopped for his safety.  (S) BLO presented all cues for intoxication on this test.

HGN:

(S) BLO was told to stand with his feet together, arms to his sides, keep his head pointed straight ahead, and stimulus was introduced slightly above his eyes and he was asked to follow a light source side-to-side separately with each eye.  (S) BLO showed indicators of intoxication in both eyes by displaying distinct nystagmus, the angle of onset prior to 45 degrees, and lack of smooth pursuit.

COUNTING:

(S) BLO was asked to count backwards from 66 to 55, so he was further told start on the number 66 and stop on the number 55.  (S) BLO was asked if he understood the test and he proceeded to start the test counting from 100 to 125 ending on the numbers "W,X,Y,Z."  (S) BLO failed the counting test.

ALPHABET:

(S) BLO was asked his level of education, in which he possessed his Bachelor Degree from a major University in Liberal Arts.  I asked (S) if he knew his Alphabet and he said he did.  I asked (S) BLO to recite the Alphabet in order starting with the "letter" "E" and go forward and stop on the letter "T" like the movie about the alien "E.T. phone home," start with the letter E and stop on the letter T.  I asked (S) if he understood the instructions and (S) belched and said, "Yep."  I asked (S) to proceed and (S) BLO began counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, C, B, T, and E.  (S) BLO was unsteady on his feet and the test was stopped for his safety. 

OLS:

 (S) BLO was asked to stand in an instructional position with his feet together, arms to his sides, to watch me first demonstrate.  (S) was given a demonstration that showed my leg raised approximately 45 degrees with my toes point, keeping my arms to the sides and count to slowly count to 30 at a rate of one count per second for a total of 30 seconds.  (S) BLO attempted the test, he began flailing his arms, he was hopping, and the test was stopped for his safety.

W&T:

(S) BLO was asked to assume an instructional stance with his right foot heel-to-toe with his left foot in front, arms to his sides, and remain in that position during the instructions.  (S) continually stepped of the position, moved his arms to his sides and had to continually be reminded to remain in the instructional position.  (S) was first demonstrated and then asked to take nine heel-to-toe steps forward along a clearly marked white lane marker, make three pivot steps and walk back nine heel-to-toe steps back along the same clearly marked white lane marker and make three pivot steps and stop with his feet and arms by his sides.  (S) BLO showed all objective indicators of intoxication on this test and the test had to be stopped for (S) BLO's safety as he was unsteady on his feet and nearly fell on second turning movement.  

PAS:

Although (S)BLO had been belching during my contact, interview, and field sobriety test it had been more than thirty minutes since his last belch.  (S) BLO did not regurgitate or vomit during my investigation.  (S) BLO was administered a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) #1234 test, which resulted in a .234/.234 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).

ARREST:

As a result of my investigation, and the objective symptoms of intoxication, I formed the opinion that (S) BLO was under influence of alcohol at the time that he was driving and he was place under arrest for DUI.  (S) BLO was transported to the station where he was read the blood, breath, urine admonition, and Admin Per Se form that explained that his driver's license would be suspended if he refused to provide a sample of his blood, breath, or urine for alcohol analysis.

BLOOD:

(S) BLO refused a blood test.

BREATH:

Three attempts were made to administer (S) BLO the breathalyzer test but each time he would burp in the machine and on the third attempt he vomited all over the machine.  As a result of the previous high PAS reading, I formed the opinion that (S)' was possibly experiencing alcohol poisoning and I called fire and rescue who arrived at the station and 

(S) was released into their custody for transport to XYZ hospital.

URINE:

Test stopped for medical reasons.

BOOKING REQUIRED:

(S) BLO should be given a court ordered booking when he has been cleared for processing.

---End of Report---