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Criminal Justice 7: What to Omit

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An effective report omits opinions, generalizations, insensitive language, jargon, and passive voice.

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Criminal Justice 7: What to Omit

  1. 1. CRIMINAL JUSTICE REPORT WRITING THE HOW AND WHY Part 7 Writing Effective Police Reports: What to Omit
  2. 2. CRIMINAL JUSTICE REPORT WRITING THE HOW AND WHY Part 7 Writing Effective Police Reports: What to Omit
  3. 3. When you write a report, your first concern is including everything needed for completeness. But…
  4. 4. You also need to think about what needs to be omitted.
  5. 5. There’s no place in a criminal justice report for:  opinions, hunches, and guesses  generalizations  insensitive language
  6. 6. Let’s take a look at each one of these.
  7. 7. Opinions, guesses, and hunches…  can’t be verified in a courtroom  can’t be documented or proven  can be challenged by an attorney
  8. 8. Provide only observable facts and details:  not Clare was obviously lying but Clare gave a different address the second time  not Lasko didn’t want me to see the ring but Lasko kept her right fist tightly closed while we were talking  not Chauvin was confused but Chauvin said “What? What?” when I asked about the missing items
  9. 9. Generalizations…  make prosecution difficult  are too vague to be followed up in an investigation  can cause a criminal to go free
  10. 10. Be specific when you report what you saw or did:  not I processed the area but I photographed three sets of footprints  not the room was ransacked but I saw shirts, jeans, pajamas, and shoes piled on the closet floor.  not she looked frightened but her hands were trembling, and she kept looking at the kitchen door
  11. 11. Insensitive language…  casts doubt on your professionalism  leaves you open to charges of unprofessionalism  damages your credibility
  12. 12. Be sensitive when you speak or write about minorities and special groups. Avoid:  sexually charged terms like babe, stacked, broad, and bombshell for women  offensive terms like crippled, crazy, demented, and retarded for physical and mental conditions  ethnic, religious and sexual slurs
  13. 13. Modern criminal justice reports should also avoid:  passive voice (The door was opened by Mrs. Waite)  jargon (Mirandized, Baker Acted, perp)  unnecessary repetition (I asked for his name. He told me it was Thomas Vinh. I asked what happened. He told me a blond woman grabbed his wallet and ran out of the shop with it.)
  14. 14. These statements are more professional:  Mrs. Waite opened the door (active voice)  I used my Miranda card to read him his rights (jargon free)  He told me his name was Thomas Vinh. He said a blond woman grabbed his wallet and ran out of the shop with it. (no unnecessary repetition)
  15. 15. To Learn More: Criminal Justice Report Writing is available in softcover ($17.95) from www.Amazon.com and in a variety of ebook and Apple formats (Kindle, Nook, SONY etc.) for $11.99 from www.Smashwords.com. Read a free sample online!
  16. 16. Find FREE report writing resources online at www.YourPoliceWrite.com