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How Not to Write a Police Report


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You've probably spent a lot of time learning how to write police reports. Why not take a look at what NOT to do when you write a report? This PowerPoint reviews basic principles officers need to think about when writing reports.

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How Not to Write a Police Report

  1. 1. How NOT to Write a Police Report by Jean Reynolds, Ph.D.
  2. 2. Writing police reports takes time and effort.
  3. 3. There are two basic ways to write a police report...
  4. 4. The right way…
  5. 5. …and the wrong way.
  6. 6. You’ve probably spent a lot of time learning how to do reports correctly.
  7. 7. So…just to be different…let’s talk about how to write a BAD report.
  8. 8. Rule 1: Be out of date.
  9. 9. Police practices have changed in recent years...
  10. 10. But why should you change with them?
  11. 11. Make your reports sound quaint and old- fashioned… …not modern and professional.
  12. 12. Rule 2. Always use passive voice. It gives the impression you’ve done nothing on your shift.
  13. 13. Isn’t this report amazing? It sounds like the search and arrest happened by themselves.
  14. 14. Passive voice is great for creating confusion during a court hearing.
  15. 15. “A revolver was found in the glove box.” “Who found it, Officer – you or your partner?” “Uh…uh…I don’t remember.”
  16. 16. Active voice shows exactly who did what. But why make life easier for yourself and everyone else?
  17. 17. If your report doesn’t state who did what, the judge might reschedule the trial until you can figure it out.
  18. 18. Rule 3: Be vague. You’ll make it easy for a defense attorney to challenge your report.
  19. 19. If your report is precise and factual (like the version below), a defense attorney might not want to take a chance with a court hearing. What fun is that?
  20. 20. Rule 4: Repeat yourself. Over and over. And over. And over and over. Keep going!
  21. 21. But what’s wrong with repeating yourself endlessly? You have nothing better to do, right? Here’s a more concise version.
  22. 22. Rule 5: Make lots of grammar and spelling mistakes.
  23. 23. Wouldn’t your high school English teacher love to read a report written like this?
  24. 24. It takes time and effort to use good grammar and spelling, like this….
  25. 25. Rule 6: Use police jargon instead of simple words that everyone understands.
  26. 26. It’s fun to confuse juries, attorneys, reporters, and citizens who are trying to figure out what you mean!
  27. 27. This version is much easier to read, but who cares?
  28. 28. Rule 7. Use texting abbreviations whenever you can.
  29. 29. Sure, it looks strange—but your supervisor will probably get used to it.
  30. 30. Nobody writes professional sentences like this anymore…do they?
  31. 31. Let’s review what we’ve learned about writing BAD reports.
  32. 32. Rule 1: Be out of date.
  33. 33. Rule 2. Always use passive voice. Rule 3: Be vague.
  34. 34. Rule 4: Repeat yourself. Rule 5: Make lots of grammar and spelling mistakes.
  35. 35. Rule 6: Use police jargon. Rule 7: Use texting abbreviations whenever you can.
  36. 36. Of course you could decide all this bad advice isn’t for you…
  37. 37. …and you want to be as professional as possible.
  38. 38. That means putting time, effort, and brainpower into your reports.
  39. 39. You can learn more about report writing at
  40. 40. All the resources there are FREE:
  41. 41. And if you’re looking for a low-cost, practical book…
  42. 42. The Criminal Justice Report Writing Guide for Officers is available from for just $19.95. View a free sample online.
  43. 43. An e-book edition is available for Kindles and other e-readers for only $9.99 from
  44. 44. A free Instructor’s Manual is available on request: Send an e- mail to jreynoldswrite at