What Are the Characteristics of a Quality Police Report?

Police officers are responsible for writing reports.

Police report writing is a part of required training for police candidates. A large number of police agencies have transitioned to computer electronic reports rather than using paper forms. The electronic reports are designed as templates with fillable information, making it user-friendly when writing a report. While the computer offers some ease, the officer should take consideration in writing a quality police report.

1 Crime Classification

Classification of the offense needs to be accurately reported and placed under the proper crime category. Statistical data of these offenses is collected from all law enforcement agencies to analyze and gauge the types of crimes that occur throughout the country. The police officer is responsible for knowing the different types of crimes and applying the applicable crimes in the report.

2 Basic Information

Police report forms contain checklists and fields for the police officers to fill in information. Each item and area has to be thoroughly completed, even if it is non-applicable. Several of these fields are completed by the police officer using the victim or alleged suspect's government-issued identification card. Contact information and phone numbers are important to follow up or obtain additional information from the victim or alleged suspect.

3 Incident Information

Date, time and location of the incident are critical components in a police report. When an offense or incident is not reported on the actual date or time of occurrence, the details become important should the case go to trial. The police officer should enter the actual date and time of the initial offense. Sometimes, the location of the incident occurs in several different areas. Indicate the first location on the police report; all other locations can be provided in the narrative.

4 Suspect Information

A vital part of the police report is getting a detailed description of the suspects. Obtaining a good physical description from the victim may be difficult during a traumatic experience. The best way is to ask several questions, which produces an effective and thorough report, especially if the report is necessary for court cases. Important physical details should include race, eye color, hair color, complexion, approximate age, height, weight, tattoos, scars and clothing.

5 Report Narrative

The report narrative needs to be well written, accurate, direct, concise and complete. Refrain from repeating information previously entered in the data fields and use it as a second reference in the narrative, such as Victim Smith or Suspect 1. Gather all information and interviews by being proactive, since people are sometimes reluctant to volunteer information. Write the report in chronological order with facts from the interview and investigation. Details, such as contradictions, may be pertinent to the report. Do not overlook any details, such as conversations and verbal exchanges.

With over 25 years of writing experience, Lisa Huston worked in city government with experience in zoning and urban planning, writing ordinances and policies. She specializes in research and technical writing, and she holds a bachelor's degree in Liberal Studies and minor in Film and Media Studies.