Detective Lieutenant Barry M. Baker (ret.) is a 32 year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department.
Police writing skills are second only in importance to an officer’s ability to ensure the officer’s physical safety in dangerous situations. You’ll be writing every day, and how well you write will determine success or failure. Your police writing skills will project your level of knowledge and competence to others, because you’re writing for others.
You should not be apprehensive about your ability to write a good police report. You’ll see poor reports by police officers who never realize the need to improve their writing skills. Even when reports are written on computers, the spell check feature eludes many. There are simple ways to improve your writing skills, and you should take advantage of multiple resources available.
Too Many Reports
The biggest obstacle to a police officer’s ability to prepare a grammatically sound and accurate report is laziness. Police officers complain about reports being required for too many things, and that is true in some cases. This is a reality over which you have no control, and you must adjust to the circumstances. Your time is better spent tuning out the complaints and concentrate on your police writing skills.
There’s a misconception prevailing among police officers that computerized information systems should lessen the need for more reports. They fail to realize that computer software exists to handle maximum amounts of information with maximum efficiency, but they forget that information to be managed first needs to be developed and entered by people.
Details Matter – Police Writing Skills
Many officers fail to realize consequences that can result from their failure to develop and utilize effective writing skills. Your written description of the elements of a crime determines if that crime is prosecuted, because details do matter. The way you convey details through sentence structure and punctuation should give the reader a clear understanding of events. Whether you’re writing crime reports or defending yourself against false allegations of misconduct, how you communicate in writing will determine outcomes.
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