How to File A Police Complaint

At the scene of an incident, police can gather information using a computer.

The idea of filing a police report can be intimidating. Reaching the point of having to file a report with police usually means something upsetting has happened. The level of trauma may vary from a car dented in a parking lot to a burglary in your home or worse. Filing a police report, however, can be relatively easy.

Determine what number to call. Police agencies frown on non-emergency calls to 911 centers. Unless there are serious or life-threatening injuries or a crime is in progress, call your local police, county sheriff or state police using a non-emergency number. You can also stop by police stations during normal business hours to make a report or ask an officer to come to your home or business. File the report in the same jurisdiction as where the incident took place.

Obtain forms and/or file a report online. Many police agencies take advantage of the Internet and post forms online, saving them and you time. Some agencies also allow you to file online police reports as long as there are no injuries or the damage or theft is less than a certain dollar amount.

Police officers will ask for your identification and phone number in addition to insurance and serial numbers.

Have all the important information handy. If the police report involves a motor vehicle, have your diver’s license, proof of insurance and the registration or title. Many times, police advise having an officer come to the scene of an accident rather than having the drivers come to the station. If the incident involves property theft or damage to property, have the serial numbers and any purchase receipts handy along with the necessary insurance information.

Bring proper identification with you, and provide telephone numbers where you can be reached. You must be 18 or older to file a police report; anyone younger than must be accompanied by a parent or guardian who agrees to take responsibility for the report.

Do not delay in reporting an incident to police. The sooner it is reported, the better you recall the incident and the better the chance of police solving the crime or catching the suspect.

Kathleen Murphy is a freelance journalist living in Southeastern Michigan. Her career as an editor and reporter has been at weekly newspapers across the region since 1991. Murphy is a graduate of Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science.