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Common Mistakes in
Police Reports
by Jean Reynolds, Ph.D.
Here are 10 common
mistakes that turn up
in police reports.
1. Placing periods
and commas
outside quotation
marks. They
should go inside.
There are no exceptions.
2. Using jargon
instead of normal
English words.
You don’t use words
like ascertained and
abovementioned
when you’re
talking, right?
So why would you
put them into your
re...
If someone tells
you something,
don’t write that
she “advised”
you.
If you’re dispatched to a house for a
call, don’t write that you went to a
“residence.”
3. Writing in
passive voice.
What’s wrong with passive voice?
It omits essential information: Who did
what.
This sentence doesn’t tell who
handcuffed the suspect and drove him
to jail.
A defense attorney
might ask for that
information in court.
Active voice clearly states who did
what.
4. Misusing capital letters.
If you’re writing directions, lower-case
north, south, east, and west.
The West is a
region in the US. If
you mean the
direction west, use
lower-case.
Family words (like
mother, father,
sister, brother) are
usually lower-case.
Use a capital letter
only when you’re
naming a person:
“Sister Mary
Alice.”
5. Misspelling common words.
Use a dictionary or
spellchecker to make
sure every word is
correct.
Many officers make
mistakes with these
common words. Are
you careful to get
them right?
6. Omitting the results
of an investigation.
If you write “I looked for latent
fingerprints,” be sure to record
whether or not you found any.
If you write, “I looked f...
7. Ending a sentence with a comma
instead of a period.
It’s embarrassing to
have someone come
after you and fill in
details that you forgot
to include in your
report!
8. Writing unnecessary
words.
 Unnecessary words
waste time.
 They make reports
harder to write.
 They make your
writing sound
outdated and
unprofess...
9. Writing vague
generalizations instead
of facts.
“Monica was
uncooperative” is a
generalization.
Better:
“Monica was silent
when I tried to
interview her. She did
not resp...
Describe
exactly what
you saw.
10. Making assumptions.
It’s okay to
describe clothing,
words, and
behavior.
But don’t pretend
you know what
was going on in a
person’s mind.
Beware of statements
like these:
“I could tell that he
was looking for
trouble.”
In the same way, don’t assume that an
older person is frail, confused, or
forgetful.
You can learn more about report writing
at www.YourPoliceWrite.com.
All the resources there are FREE:
www.YourPoliceWrite.com.
And if you’re
looking for a
low-cost,
practical book…
The Criminal Justice
Report Writing Guide
for Officers is
available from
www.Amazon.com for
just $17.95.
View a free sampl...
An e-book edition is
available from
www.Smashwords.com
for only $11.99.
A free Instructor’s
Manual is available on
request: Send an e-
mail to jreynoldswrite
at aol.com.
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Common Mistakes in Police Reports

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A lively review of the most 10 common mistakes that police officers make in their reports.

Published in: Career, Education

Common Mistakes in Police Reports

  1. 1. Common Mistakes in Police Reports by Jean Reynolds, Ph.D.
  2. 2. Here are 10 common mistakes that turn up in police reports.
  3. 3. 1. Placing periods and commas outside quotation marks. They should go inside.
  4. 4. There are no exceptions.
  5. 5. 2. Using jargon instead of normal English words.
  6. 6. You don’t use words like ascertained and abovementioned when you’re talking, right? So why would you put them into your reports?
  7. 7. If someone tells you something, don’t write that she “advised” you.
  8. 8. If you’re dispatched to a house for a call, don’t write that you went to a “residence.”
  9. 9. 3. Writing in passive voice.
  10. 10. What’s wrong with passive voice? It omits essential information: Who did what.
  11. 11. This sentence doesn’t tell who handcuffed the suspect and drove him to jail.
  12. 12. A defense attorney might ask for that information in court.
  13. 13. Active voice clearly states who did what.
  14. 14. 4. Misusing capital letters.
  15. 15. If you’re writing directions, lower-case north, south, east, and west.
  16. 16. The West is a region in the US. If you mean the direction west, use lower-case.
  17. 17. Family words (like mother, father, sister, brother) are usually lower-case.
  18. 18. Use a capital letter only when you’re naming a person: “Sister Mary Alice.”
  19. 19. 5. Misspelling common words.
  20. 20. Use a dictionary or spellchecker to make sure every word is correct.
  21. 21. Many officers make mistakes with these common words. Are you careful to get them right?
  22. 22. 6. Omitting the results of an investigation.
  23. 23. If you write “I looked for latent fingerprints,” be sure to record whether or not you found any. If you write, “I looked for the point of entry,” be sure to note whether or not you found it.
  24. 24. 7. Ending a sentence with a comma instead of a period.
  25. 25. It’s embarrassing to have someone come after you and fill in details that you forgot to include in your report!
  26. 26. 8. Writing unnecessary words.
  27. 27.  Unnecessary words waste time.  They make reports harder to write.  They make your writing sound outdated and unprofessional.
  28. 28. 9. Writing vague generalizations instead of facts.
  29. 29. “Monica was uncooperative” is a generalization. Better: “Monica was silent when I tried to interview her. She did not respond to my questions.”
  30. 30. Describe exactly what you saw.
  31. 31. 10. Making assumptions.
  32. 32. It’s okay to describe clothing, words, and behavior. But don’t pretend you know what was going on in a person’s mind.
  33. 33. Beware of statements like these: “I could tell that he was looking for trouble.”
  34. 34. In the same way, don’t assume that an older person is frail, confused, or forgetful.
  35. 35. You can learn more about report writing at www.YourPoliceWrite.com.
  36. 36. All the resources there are FREE: www.YourPoliceWrite.com.
  37. 37. And if you’re looking for a low-cost, practical book…
  38. 38. The Criminal Justice Report Writing Guide for Officers is available from www.Amazon.com for just $17.95. View a free sample online.
  39. 39. An e-book edition is available from www.Smashwords.com for only $11.99.
  40. 40. A free Instructor’s Manual is available on request: Send an e- mail to jreynoldswrite at aol.com.

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