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Report writing

  1. 1. Report Writing HUMANE EDUCATORS OF TEXAS, LLC
  2. 2. Objectives  Become comfortable with the basics of grammar  Construct an incident report that is concise, accurate, and informative  F.O.I.A. and T.P.I.A.  Become familiar with common defense attorney tactics and how to head them off with your report  Prepare for a trial and how to make sure your report holds water years down the line.
  3. 3. Your policy, procedures, and the guidelines from the prosecutor over your jurisdiction take precedence over the information provided in this course. Reports will vary from agency to agency.
  4. 4. Incident Report Writing 15 minutes to write a basic narrative
  5. 5. Software
  6. 6. The Basics Nouns Pronouns Verbs Active/ Passive Voice Subject/ Verb Agreement Tense Adjectives Mood Adverbs Intersections Prepositions Conjunctions Who vs. Whom Punctuation
  7. 7. Nouns  Person , Place, or Thing  Used as the subject, direct object, and indirect object. Can also be used as the object of a preposition and as an adverb or adjective. Can also be possessive  Subject : The Animal Control Officer impounds stray dogs.  Direct Object: I finally sold all my puppies.  Indirect Object: Mary fed the dog some treats.  Object of a preposition: She gave directions over the phone.  Adverb: The vaccine clinic is today.  Adjective: The animal shelter faces the park.  Possession: The dog’s kennel needs to be cleaned. My mother’s sister is my aunt.
  8. 8. Pronoun  Takes the place of one or more nouns in a sentence  Like nouns, can be used to refer to a person, place, or thing  The police officer described several scenarios. He wanted the trainees to practice them.  Personal Pronoun  I, me, us, them, he, she, yourself, herself, himself, we, they, etc.  Infinite Pronoun  Many, one, such, somebody, either, everybody, any, both, several, etc.  Possessive Pronoun  Whose, my, our, mine, yours, theirs, his, hers, your
  9. 9. Verbs  The action word.  If you can do it, it’s a verb  Verbs come in all tenses  Verbs are foundation words in sentences  They beat the puppy with a chain.  The puppy played until it became overheated.  I am arresting her today.
  10. 10. Tense Present Past Future Perfect Past perfect Future Perfect Typically narratives are in past tense but if you chose to write in present tense…stick with it!
  11. 11. Nouns and Verbs  The most important parts of a sentence.  You need an action word doing something to, with, for, or at a noun.  Write like you speak. Tell the complete story line by line.  These two parts are essential to sentence structure.
  12. 12. Active and Passive Voices  Active = the subject performs an action  Passive = the subject receives the action  She sold three puppies.  She was sold a puppy.  We have issued a citation.  A citation was issued by Animal Services.  Traditionally reports are written in a passive voice. Writing reports in an active voice is more effective because it shows who did what and usage errors are decreased.
  13. 13. Subject / Verb Agreement  Verbs must agree with their subject in number.  Singular subject = singular verb  Plural subject = plural verb  Singular – The dog sits  Plural – The dogs sit  Singular- The car is hot  Plural – The cars are hot  Singular- I am going home  Plural- We are going home
  14. 14. Adjectives / Adverbs  Adjectives – modify nouns, pronouns, and other adjectives  The shelter has a two year old Great Dane available for adoption.  He gave her that hat over there.  Adverbs- modify verbs, adverbs, and other adjectives  He always feeds his dog in the evening.  They carried the kitten upstairs.  He objected strongly to the judge’s ruling. When Where What kind How much Which one
  15. 15. Spelling Matters….
  16. 16. Circumlocution  Circumlocution involves stating an idea or a view in an indirect manner that leaves the reader guessing and grasping at the actual meaning.  Example: “Around 2 hours before sunset, it was winter at the time, the man arrived in a combustion engine driven piece of technology with four wheels to join other bipedal creatures in the ingestion of somewhat large quantities of food and drink while having discourse around a large wooden mesa designed for such a purpose”.  Should say : At 5pm, he arrived by car for the dinner party”  Be clear and concise. Include only pertinent descriptions.
  17. 17. Incident Reports  Animal bite  Rabies exposure  Dangerous dog  Citations issued  Animal cruelty  Law enforcement assists  Injured animal
  18. 18. It’s Permanent  Incident reports, once submitted and approved by a supervisor, is a permanent legal document.  Reports are subject to open records requests through the Public Information Act.  Court cases can drag on and you may be called to testify to an incident that occurred months or years prior.  Anything you write, can and will, be used against you in court!  Your report should make the prosecutor’s job easier and the defense attorney’s job harder.
  19. 19. Who is your ‘target audience’?  Sergeant  Detective  Supervisor  Attorneys  Judges  Insurance companies  Civilians  News media  Public interest groups  Your 14 year old neighbor
  20. 20. Components of a report  Fill in the blank  Data including incident title, dates, times, persons involved, etc  The ‘menu’  Synopsis  Public narrative – brief overview of what the report is about and outcome  The ‘appetizer’  Narrative  The most time consuming, annoying, frustrating, intimidating portion of any incident report.  The “meat and potatoes”
  21. 21. Synopsis – Public Narrative  Short overview of what occurred  Sometimes released to news papers or police blotters  On 3/20/15 at approximately 1030 hours, I, ACO John Smith #223, responded to animal bite in the 100 block of W. Main St, Smallville, Travis County, TX. A dog was impounded and placed in quarantine. A report was taken.
  22. 22. Write it down  Narratives are not fill in the blank or drop down menus so they can be daunting at first.  Organize your field notes, your thoughts, and any paperwork related to the incident.  You can compartmentalize your narrative into logical sections and those sections flow into a detailed, easy to read, chronological incident report.  Some sections will be ‘fill in the blank’ – identifying people and animals involved in the incident. Having a standard way to identify involved parties will help you ask the right questions when you are on scene
  23. 23. Identification People  Name  Race/Gender  DOB  DL #  Address  Phone Animals  Name  Shelter ID (if one available)  Microchip number  Sex/ altered or not  Color and breed  Coat texture  Tail shape  Age  Address  Rabies vaccine status  Vet clinic who vaccinated  Vet address/ phone
  24. 24. Logical sections  How you got there  Time/date/ dispatched to ____/ for ___  Who you talked to  First person you met with – victim/officer/ complainant /suspect  Identify them and narrate your discussion with them  What you saw  Dog running at large, description of injuries, directions something/one fled, building description  What you did  Treated a wound, impounded an animal, used catch pole, untethered an animal, bagged deceased animal, took photos of scene
  25. 25. Interviews  The complainant’s story – being told by you  You are not writing a court transcript – you are summarizing what was said by the person interviewed  You will likely have to fix their grammar, foul language, and ‘smarten up’ their statement.  You are not putting words in their mouth, you are just making the statement easier to follow and understand.
  26. 26. Bad On 3/20/17, I, ACO John Smith #223, responds to a request for assistance from Smallville Police. When I arrive, police officers gave me a small dog for impoundment. A warrant was served and this dog was removed from the home cause the owners was arrested. The dog is placed in quarantine for biting an officer. No further information at this time. This case is assigned to Animal Services for follow up.
  27. 27. Better On 3/20/17, at approximately 1030 hours, I, ACO John Smith #223, responded to 124 W Main St., Smallville, Travis County, TX for a request for assistance from Smallville Police. Upon my arrival, senior police officer James Doe #53 gave me a small dog for impoundment. The dog was identified as: “Fluffy” Spayed Female White toy poodle 5 years old 124 W Main St, Smallville, TX 12345 Not currently vaccinated
  28. 28. Smallville police served a warrant at this address and the animal owner was subsequently arrested. The animal owner was identified as: McFly, DeeDee W/F DOB 12/15/1985 TXDL 12365487 124 W Main St. Smallville, TX 12345 512-867-5309 While McFly was being arrested by Officer Doe, “Fluffy” bit Officer Doe on his right calf. He sustained 4 puncture wounds and was treated on scene by EMS. “Fluffy” was impounded and placed in quarantine. No further information at this time. This case is assigned to Animal Services for follow up.
  29. 29. BEST On 3/20/17, at approximately 1030 hours, I, ACO John Smith #223, responded to 124 W Main St., Smallville, Travis County, Texas for a request for assistance from Smallville Police. Upon my arrival, senior police officer James Doe #53 gave me a small dog for impoundment. The dog was identified as: “Fluffy” Spayed Female White toy poodle 5 years old 124 W Main St, Smallville, TX 12345 Not currently vaccinated
  30. 30. At approximately 1000 hours, Smallville police served a warrant at this address and the animal owner was subsequently arrested. The animal owner was identified as: McFly, DeeDee W/F DOB 12/15/1985 TXDL 12365487 124 W Main St. Smallville, TX 12345 512-867-5309
  31. 31. Officer Doe stated that he and other officers made entry to the residence through the front door and made contact with McFly. “Fluffy” was loose inside the residence and was barking aggressively at the officers. Officer Doe advised that the dog became even more agitated when he attempted to arrest McFly. Officers on scene did not attempted to restrain the dog or remove it from the area. “Fluffy” bit Officer Doe on his right calf as he placed handcuffs on McFly. He sustained four puncture wounds and was treated on scene by EMS. Officer Doe will be following up with his primary care physician for antibiotics. The bite victim was identified as: Doe, James W/M DOB 5/22/1983 TXDL 20230355 41 CR 55 Metropolis, TX 12555 512-777-1234 Smallville Police Department
  32. 32. “Fluffy” was not currently vaccinated for rabies at the time of the bite and therefore was impounded to the Smallville Animal Shelter for quarantine. “Fluffy” will be in quarantine for 10 days (240 hours) from the time of the bite in accordance with Texas Health and Safety Code Ch. 826.042. “Fluffy” will be released from quarantine after 1000 hours on 3/30/17. No further information at this time. This case is assigned to Animal Services for follow up.
  33. 33. Freedom Of Information Act -FOIA  The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) generally provides that any person has the right to request access to federal agency records or information except to the extent the records are protected from disclosure by any of nine exemptions contained in the law or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions. U.S Dept of Justice
  34. 34.  Exemptions  The nine exemption categories that authorize government agencies to withhold information are: 1. classified information for national defense or foreign policy 2. internal personnel rules and practices 3. information that is exempt under other laws 4. trade secrets and confidential business information 5. inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters that are by legal privileges 6. personnel and medical files 7. law enforcement records or information 8. Information concerning bank supervision 9. geological and geophysical information
  35. 35.  Law Enforcement Record Exclusions 1. protects the existence of an ongoing criminal law enforcement investigation when the subject of the investigation is unaware that it is pending and disclosure could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings. 2. is limited to criminal law enforcement agencies and protects the existence of informant records when the informant’s status has not been officially confirmed. 3. is limited to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and protects the existence of foreign intelligence or counterintelligence, or international terrorism records when the existence of such records is classified.
  36. 36. Texas Public Information Act- TPIA  Texas Government Code, Ch.552, gives you the right to access government records; and an officer for public information and the officer’s agent may not ask you why you want them. All government information is presumed to be available to the public. Certain exceptions may apply to the disclosure of the information. Governmental bodies shall promptly release requested information that is not confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision, or information for which an exception to disclosure has not been sought. TX AG Office
  37. 37. Drafting An Affidavit  Determine the title of the affidavit. If the affidavit is a sworn statement, then the name and address of the person giving the testimony or the affiant must be included in the title, e.g. Affidavit of Jane Doe. If the affidavit will be submitted before the court, the caption of the case must be stated at the top. The case caption may be found on any of the pleadings filed by the parties in said case. The caption must include the name of the court, the county and the state, the names of the parties and the case number.  In the first paragraph of the affidavit, include the name and personal circumstances of the affiant. This shall include his address, place of work, age or date of birth of the affiant, occupation, immigration status and relationship of the affiant to any of the parties in the case.  Write an opening sentence which must be in the first person. The same must state that the affiant is swearing under oath or affirming the information in the affidavit.
  38. 38.  Make an outline of the facts to be stated in the affidavit. Determine, which among the listed facts, are relevant and important and disregard those which are not. Arrange the facts in a coherent manner.  State each fact in one paragraph. Number the paragraphs so that it will be easier to read it and to refer to it in court.  Described each fact concisely and clearly by providing names, dates, addresses and other information as needed.  Reference supporting documents by marking them as "exhibits".
  39. 39.  Make a statement that the affidavit is a complete representation of the facts to which the affiant is swearing. Also spell out the oath that the affiant is taking.  Create the signature block. This is the space where the affiant shall sign his name.  Lastly, provide a notary signature block.  Talk to your prosecutor about what forms they would like used for seizure affidavits and warrants- if they do not have an animal specific on, work with them to have one drafted for your agency!
  40. 40. Court Room Procedures
  41. 41. Civil vs Criminal Civil  Preponderance of evidence  Seizure/Custody hearing  Dangerous Dog appeal  Plaintiff vs Defendant Criminal  Beyond a reasonable doubt  Offense occurred- guilty/not guilty  Animal at large, animal cruelty  Prosecution (state) vs Defendant
  42. 42. Civil Court  Seizure hearing 10 days post seizure of the animal Goal is to get disposition on custody of the animals Return to owner Give custody to the state (animal services, animal shelter where animal are housed) Humanely destroy Hold for criminal trial (NEVER want this!!)
  43. 43. Ask for restitution from the animal owner to cover cost of caring for and medical treatment completed on animals seized 2 dogs : $10/ day / dog for 9 days of boarding- $180 , 1 dog required xrays - $150, 1 dog require 1 week of medical care for malnutrition- $1500  Request $1830 to be paid to the court for the care/treatment of the animals seized  Restitution can be calculated from date of seizure to date of hearing If owner chooses to appeal, you can request additional money to recoup costs to be covered by the appeal bond.
  44. 44. Testimony
  45. 45. U.S. v. Wade (1967), the U.S. Supreme Court told “Defense counsel has no obligation to present the truth. …If he can confuse a witness, even a truthful one, or make him appear unsure or indecisive, that will be his normal course.”
  46. 46. Civil Hearing Criminal Trial  preponderance of the evidence  n. the greater weight of the evidence required in a civil (non-criminal) lawsuit for the trier of fact (jury or judge without a jury) to decide in favor of one side or the other.  beyond a reasonable doubt  adj. part of jury instructions in all criminal trials, in which the jurors are told that they can only find the defendant guilty if they are convinced "beyond a reason- able doubt" of his or her guilt
  47. 47. Put everyone else on trial first in order to discredit the witnesses
  48. 48. Misrepresent the officer’s training or qualifications
  49. 49. Miscasting the Officer as biased and implying that testifying in court will result in extra pay
  50. 50. Demand a “yes” or “no” answer to a question that needs a qualifying answer
  51. 51. Repetitious questions: questions that are phrased slightly differently in an attempt to obtain conflicting answers from a witness
  52. 52. BEFORE THE TRIAL • Build your case with solid investigation • Adequately document the case • Bring all reports, statements, and other evidence to attention of prosecutor for discovery • Any notes you bring to stand are subject to discovery • Familiarize yourself with the courtroom and the judge’s procedures
  53. 53. IF IT'S NOT IN THE CASE REPORT,IT DID NOT HAPPEN
  54. 54. Before taking the stand, you should be thoroughly familiar with all reports prepared by you, and all statements or depositions given by you. AT TRIAL Any change in testimony at trial may result in impeachment by defense counsel and points scored by his client. Effective courtroom performance is founded upon experience and diligent preparation.
  55. 55. In the event you do forget, say so, and you will be permitted to refer to your reports to refresh your memory. While you should take your reports with you to the witness stand, keep in mind that a witness who has to fumble through his notes, or read verbatim from a report when asked about important events, is not very forceful or effective.
  56. 56. https://youtu.be/gsDyzGEkMEM
  57. 57. Invoking the rule Once the rule has been invoked, you must be certain to abide by the rule as well. You are not to discuss your testimony or the testimony of any other witnesses with any other person who may testify. You are not free to discuss testimony after that particular witness has testified, as the rule endures throughout the trial of the case. If you violate the rule, valuable testimony for your case may be excluded during the trial.
  58. 58. • Dress neatly and conservatively • Class A’s if you have them • Leave your flashy accessories at home • Questions should be answered “Yes,sir” “no, sir” or with as little extra information as possible • Your job is to answer truthfully and not offer up more information than what is requested
  59. 59. • Be attentive. • Listen and give proper response • You shouldn’t appear bored or annoyed • Don’t chew gum • Keep you hands away from your mouth
  60. 60. Use good posture, do not slouch. “These next few questions may make you a little uncomfortable. I hope they do. You look way too comfortable.”
  61. 61. Take your time and speak clearly and loudly. Give the question such thought as it requires to understand it. The juror farthest from you should be able to hear distinctly what you have to say. Since all testimony is recorded, do not nod your head "yes" or "no". Pause before answering questions to give prosecutor time to object if needed.
  62. 62. Be aware of hallway conversations and interactions Be serious in the Courtroom. Avoid joking and wisecracks in the jury's presence.
  63. 63. Never ask the Judge if you have to answer. This will give the jury the impression that you are something back. You are on your own. If you do not understand a question, ask that it be explained Avoid "volunteering" information. Answer all questions directly. You do not have to answer STATEMENTS, only QUESTIONS Do not look at the Prosecutor for help.
  64. 64. https://youtu.be/mvQUSUjkIAY
  65. 65. Do not lose your temper. Some attorneys may attempt to wear you down so that you will lose your temper and say things that are not correct. Do not fence or argue with the attorneys. They have a right to question you, and many are very expert in this craft. OK, OK, you’ve made your point. I’ll admit that sometimes when I feel threatened, I snap”
  66. 66. https://youtu.be/aYAOeMzNVbw
  67. 67. BEWARE of questions asking if you are willing to swear to your version of the events. You were "sworn" to tell the truth when you took the stand, do not be afraid of saying so. BEWARE of questions involving distance and time. If you make an estimate, make sure that everyone understands that you are estimating.
  68. 68. BEWARE of questions asking if you have spoken to the Prosecutor, the witnesses, or other officers. If you have, admit it freely. This preparation before trial is expected in each case. If you are asked if you talked with the Prosecutor about your testimony, admit that you met with him, talked about the case and he instructed you to tell the truth.
  69. 69. BEWARE of the simple question, "Why are you here today?" You are not here to volunteer information in order to convict. You are not an advocate. You are an unbiased witness. You appeared at trial in response to being served with a subpoena issued by the Court Clerk. BEWARE of questions asking why you don't like the defendant. You may best respond by stating that you feel sorry for any man in trouble, but you must tell the truth, and if the defendant is guilty, he should be convicted. BEWARE of questions asking you if another witness was telling the truth or lying. You can only tell the truth based upon your observations. You have no way of knowing what another person observed, especially when you did not hear that person testify.
  70. 70. At 2140 hours the perpetrator exited the northeast door of the motor vehicle and started flight with responding officers in pursuit, resulting in apprehension. "At twenty till ten, the defendant got out of his car from the passenger side and ran, but was chased and caught by other officers." Do not use "legalese" or police "lingo" just for the sake of impressing the jury. I
  71. 71. The most effective witness is one who can tell their story comfortably. Just tell the truth and be yourself. Everything else will take care of itself.
  72. 72. BE YOURSELF AND ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH BE PREPARED - KNOW THE CASE Know all reports and prior statements/depositions Know the role of other officers/witnesses in investigation Review physical evidence; visit crime scene Meet with Prosecutor LOOK GOOD, SOUND GOOD, BE GOOD Professional, unbiased, courteous. Have confidence. If you look and sound like a bad cop, you must be a bad cop.
  73. 73. Kelly Thyssen Owner/Instructor Tabitha Blewett Instructor 512-221-5464

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