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Criminal Justice 11: Active or Passive Voice?

Passive voice can create problems in a criminal justice report because it does not clarify who did what.

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Criminal Justice 11: Active or Passive Voice?

  1. 1. CRIMINAL JUSTICE REPORT WRITING THE HOW AND WHY Part 11 Active and Passive Voice in Police Reports
  2. 2. CRIMINAL JUSTICE REPORT WRITING THE HOW AND WHY Part 11 Active Voice and Passive Voice in Police Reports
  3. 3. Officers can write sentences in either active voice or passive voice. Active voice: I questioned Boaz about the argument. Passive voice: Boaz was questioned about the argument by me.
  4. 4. Criminal justice professionals used to believe that writing in passive voice made them more trustworthy and objective. Not true.
  5. 5. Trustworthiness and objectivity are character traits. They come from your commitment to excellence and professionalism.
  6. 6. Writing in passive voice does not enhance your professionalism or integrity..
  7. 7. And there’s an important reason for avoiding passive voice in your reports: Passive-voice sentences often don’t tell who did the action. Passive: Figueroa was arrested. Active: I arrested Figueroa.
  8. 8. This who-did-what problem is especially serious when you’re preparing to testify in court. Suppose, for example, you were working a scene with another officer. Passive-voice sentences don’t show what each officer did. Judy was interviewed. [Who interviewed her?] Barry was patted down. [Who patted him down?]
  9. 9. One more caution: Don’t assume that every is or was sentence is passive voice. The family was on vacation in Acapulco. ACTIVE The car is a light-blue, 2009 Yaris hatchback. ACTIVE Peter was sleeping in the back bedroom. ACTIVE
  10. 10. It’s important to follow this rule in every report: Make sure each sentence clearly shows who was acting or speaking.
  11. 11. To Learn More: Criminal Justice Report Writing is available in softcover ($17.95) from and in a variety of ebook and Apple formats (Kindle, Nook, SONY etc.) for $11.99 from Read a free sample online!
  12. 12. Find FREE report writing resources online at