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If you don't write it, it didn't happen.

Put yourself in this scenario.  You're a
young man on a date with your
girlfriend.  You had a nice dinner; after
which, you go to a nightclub where both
you and your date have a few drinks.  
You're driving, so you keep your
consumption of alcohol to a minimum.  
For the purpose of this scenario, we'll
stipulate that your blood alcohol content
is well below the legal level for
impairment.  As for your girlfriend, she
had a few more than you, and, while
she's not intoxicated, it's apparent that
she's feeling the effects of the alcohol.

You and your date leave the club and
walk to your car which is in a parking lot
a couple of blocks from the club.  You
and your date are talking and laughing,
so you don't notice that two men are
following you onto the parking lot.
Suddenly, you're grabbed from behind
and slammed against a parked car.  You
hear your girlfriend scream as you
recover your footing and turn to face
what turns out to be two robbers.  The
suspect who initially pushed you puts his
hand against your chest and warns you
to cooperate or see your girlfriend "get a
cap in her head."  You quickly focus on
the second suspect who's standing
behind your girlfriend.  He has his left
arm around her neck as he's pressing the
barrel of a handgun in his right hand
against the side of her head.  
The incident title of your report is
"Unfounded Robbery."  The first sentence
of the report states, "No robbery
occurred at (address)."  This statement
is in fact true since the original address
given to the officer was the address of
the nightclub where he responded to
meet you.  The best parts come in the
narrative where the officer describes the
"complainant" – that's you – as being
"intoxicated" and your statements as
being "inconsistent."  The officer ends
the report by advising you to "re-contact
police when the effects of alcohol have
worn off."  Of course, there's no mention
of him allowing you to drive home in your
[intoxicated] condition.

As far as the police department is
concerned, the crimes committed against
you and your girlfriend were never
committed.  There exists no possibility of
a detective contacting you in the future
to identify a suspect or suspects since no
armed robbery report exists for a
detective to read, and the crimes
committed will never become part of any
system to track crime trends or provide
any investigative assistance relative to
similar crimes.

In a police department where real quality
control features exist to maintain a high
level of integrity in its reporting system, a
report like that in the scenario could
come into question somewhere along the
chain.  However, in a police department
where police officers play fast and loose
with facts and circumstances in reporting
crime, it's likely that the leadership of
that department hasn't yet realized the
absolute importance of accurately
reporting crime.

As far as police officers go, you're going
to be working with a multitude of
personalities just as you would in any
other vocation.  While most police
officers will have integrity and a
willingness to learn and do things as they
should be done, some won't.  You'd
expect those who are incompetent or
just plain lazy to work harder avoiding
work; however, when it comes to
downgrading crime, even the most
competent and hard working police
officers are susceptible to the practice of
downgrading.  

Every police department will insist that
accurate crime reporting is a top priority.  
When a department is embarrassed by
an incident that exposes a flawed crime
reporting system, the department's
leadership will always insist that the
system is sound and that the incident
resulted from an [isolated] procedural
breakdown by an individual police officer
and first line supervision.  It's a pretty
safe excuse since those are the two
primary elements which must fail to
produce the breakdown.  The real
question that should be asked is how
many undetected procedural breakdowns
occur with regularity?  

Despite what others may do, it will always
be your individual responsibility to
accurately report crime.  As you prepare
for your career as a police officer please
keep this in mind.  Every type of report
you write will be important, but reports
of crime take on even added importance.  
The phrase, "If you don't write it, it didn't
happen," isn't just a clever comment; it's
the absolute truth.
You quickly comply with the first
suspect's demand to hand over your
money.  After the suspect has your
wallet, cash, and cell phone, both
suspects run from the lot and out of
sight.

At this point, bear this mind.  Two Part
One crimes under UCR have just been
committed.  You're the victim of an
armed robbery since a gun was the
weapon displayed, and property was
taken from you.  You're girlfriend is the
victim of an Aggravated Assault since a
gun was held to her head; however, no
property was taken from her, and no
demand for property was made to her.

Okay... you head back to the club where
you call police.  Two police officers
respond, and while one of the officers
speaks with you, the second officer
interviews your girlfriend.  It soon
becomes apparent that both officers
seem more interested in your
consumption of alcohol rather than the
details of the robbery.  Never the less,
you get through the interview, and the
first officer gives you a police report
reference number, and the officers leave.

At this point, you're in a terrible mood.  
You've just been robbed as well as
humiliated, and two police officers made
things even worse by showing little
interest in your traumatic experience.  
The only good thing is you still have your
car keys.  Before the officers departed,
you asked about driving home without
your driver's license which was in your
wallet.  The first officer told you to show
the form with the report number to the
police officer should you be stopped on
your way home; however, your trip home
is uneventful.

As time goes by, the humiliation you
suffered from the incident begins to fade,
and you've replaced all the contents of
your wallet.  You're not that confident
that the men who robbed you will be
caught, but you provided a good
description of the suspects... particularly
the first suspect who manhandled you.  
You told the officers that you had no
doubt you could identify him if you saw
him again.  While you're not that familiar
with crime and criminals, the behavior of
the suspects showed confidence, so you
knew that they'd robbed before, and
they surely would rob again... and again.  
You hold out hope that one day you'll get
a call from a detective telling you that
police have arrested two men for
committing a similar robbery to yours
and ask you to look at some mug
shots... a perfectly reasonable
expectation.  You even put that police
report number inside your new wallet just
in case you might need it for future
reference.  Now... if you thought you felt
bad the night of the robbery, you'd really
feel humiliated and enraged if you knew
what was actually contained in the report
that number represents.  In this
scenario, you didn't get a penny's worth
of the billions of dollars poured into law
enforcement annually, and law
enforcement suffered one more setback
for accurately tracking and investigating
crimes.
Importance of
Crime Reports
Every type of report you write will be
important, but reports of crime take
on even added importance.  The
phrase, "If you don't write it, it didn't
happen," isn't just a clever comment;
it's the absolute truth.
~ Barry M. Baker
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Copyright © 2016  Barry M. Baker  
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