Report writing is a major constituent of the work carried out by police and correction officers. The law enforcers must possess the skills required in writing their reports which are part of their daily work routine. Police reports are put to use during criminal investigations and provide basic information about a case to the prosecution and the defense (Jean, 2012). Judges also take consideration of the reports while determining a case in a court of law.
Examples of reports used by law enforcement agencies
There are four types of reports used in criminal justice. They include;
A police officer documents information and does not take action (Jean, 2012). For instance, a person calls to report a crime and the officer writes down details of the incident such as the location and number of perpetrators. Additionally, a report written by an officer after recognizing an act that may result in unlawful behavior falls into this category. This category of reports is easy to write and is utilized when additional developments arise regarding the incident.
This report contains information regarding an investigation after an officer is dispatched to a crime scene such as evidence collected through the taking of fingerprints and questioning people who were near the crime scene. Details of any arrest carried out must also appear in this report.
In this report, a police officer is a participant in the incident. For example, he may intervene in a fight on the streets. The report should include details of how the officer was involved and what others such as the culprits and victim did. The officer must ensure that the activities preceding the occurrence of the incident are in line with his report (Jean, 2012).
This report provides details of a crime in which the officer intervened while in progress such as a motorist flouting traffic rules. Information regarding an act that the police officer perceives as suspicious and participates in also falls in this category of reports. The officer must clearly determine his probable cause of involvement (schmalleger et al, 2014).
Importance of report writing in law enforcement
Police reports provide the basis on which a criminal case is determined in various ways. For instance, the prosecution and defense rely on the information contained in the report to justify their arguments in court. Effective police reports are therefore very necessary since they form the primary basis for prosecution of criminal cases (Redwine & Session, 2003). Police reports serve as a means of communication because the media rely on those reports to inform the public on various cases presented before a jury. Reports written by correctional officers provide insight in the investigation of a scenario that may have happened in the correctional facility such as a fight between inmates or an attempted prison break. The reports are used by the officers themselves as a reference point before appearing in court to testify because some of the cases may be prosecuted several years after the occurrence of the crime, therefore, reminding them crucial information regarding the offense (Redwine & Session, 2003).
Report writing in law enforcement helps to identify offenders who commit crimes repeatedly and their degree of involvement in every crime. For instance, a judge may use the information provided by the police reports regarding a repeat offender to determine his ruling in the case. Additionally, report writing helps in evaluating personnel effectiveness and the distribution of various resources within the agencies (Redwine & Session, 2003). Police reports aid in determining criminal patterns thus providing a basis for establishing intervention techniques by the law enforcement agencies. For example, an analysis of several different reports on burglary crimes can help to determine how often the offense is committed and the time thus allowing the law enforcers the ability to curb the criminal activity. Writing reports provide a controlled communication mechanism for the law enforcement agencies. In addition, the reports offer concrete statistical data that is utilized during strategy and policy making decisions.
Report writing in law enforcement agencies requires the use of accurate and factual statements thus personal opinion of the reporting police officer is not important. The reports must provide precise information regarding the incident such as people present and the exact observations made at the scene without including personal assumptions and opinion (Schmalleger et al, 2014). An officer should avoid writing subjective conclusions because they may influence the decisions made during prosecution of the subsequent cases. The personal opinion of a police officer included in the criminal report may either hinder justice from being served or result in the incarceration of innocent suspects. Therefore, it is vital that police reports are exempt from any personal judgments and conclusions.
Report writing requires the use of past tense and does not allow the officers to use jargon because the reports are likely to be used by people far and beyond the law enforcement agencies such as media (Jean, 2012). A report that contains abbreviations and wordy phrases does not give adequate details necessary to derive facts required for its adoption. For example, a report that is verbose and abbreviated will not serve its intended purpose since it may be difficult for the prosecution, defense, and the judges to demystify its complexity. Additionally, a report that includes the opinion and conclusion of the writing officer without special indication is incorrect. The reporting officer must avoid the use of subjective assertions by all means. The content of a report must be factual statements that can be utilized during prosecution and determination of a criminal case.
An incident report whose content contradicts the events preceding its occurrence is also incorrect. The reporting officer must take the responsibility of enquiring such details so as to ensure clarity of the report (Walker & Archbold, 2013). A report whose source of information is not indicated is incorrect. For instance, if a statement in the investigative report indicates that the suspect left the crime scene at a specified time, the reporting officer must include the name of the person who gave that information. In addition, police reports that do not contain all information pertaining to a case are incorrect and the reporting officer can be said to have lost credibility while testifying in a court of law (Walker & Archbold, 2013). For example, an officer cannot add information into a report while on the witness stand. However, the court upholds and considers all the information in a report irrespective of whether the testifying officer remembers all the details. Therefore, it is imperative for the reporting officer to ensure that all the details regarding the case are outlined in the report because it may compromise the judicial process.
A report whose format does not follow the chronological order of events is incorrect. Therefore, the reporting officer should gather all the information regarding the case and ensure that the events follow each other according to the time they took place. Writing in chronological order allows for ease of understanding of the report by other members of the law enforcement agency who are likely to use it (Jean, 2012). Effective police reports are essential to the law agencies and therefore, adequate efforts and resources should be utilized to ensure that all officers are trained and evaluated on how to write reports.
Jean.R. (2012).Criminal Justice Report Writing. City of North Charleston, USA: Create Space Independent Publishing Platform.
Redwine, K. B., & Session, X. X. I. I. (2003). The Importance of the Police Report. Criminal Justice Institute.
Schmalleger, F., Donaldson, S., Kashiwahara, K., Koppal, T., Chase, S., Brown, A., & Marash, D. (2014). Criminal justice today. Prentice Hall.
Walker, S. E., & Archbold, C. A. (2013). The new world of police accountability. Sage Publications.
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