In order for a report to be effective it must be fully comprehensible to the reader. In order for the intended conclusions to be reached, the writer’s goals should match the needs of the person reading the report. Well-written police reports must include four basic characteristics to be useful and understandable by those using the report. These include: accuracy, completeness, conciseness and clarity.
In order to be accurate, the details conveyed in a police report must represent the true situation and set of circumstances described. All sources must be credible and the sources and report of the sources statements must not contradict each other. In order for effective decisions to be made, they must be based on accurate, objective information. Accurate data includes the accurate use of numbers, vocabulary, terminology and the choice of words used to convey the message.
Completeness can be viewed as part of accuracy. When important details are left out or parts of the circumstances are deemed unimportant and therefore not included the report will be incomplete and not fully accurate. Often reports are left incomplete because reporter didn’t gather enough information to present a full picture of the situation and circumstances. In order to write a complete police report the reporter must consider different points of view from different witnesses or sources of information. Incomplete reports may also occur when the one making the report feels that the reader will be able to understand what is being said without all the details or can “fill in the blanks. This is usually due to the fact that the writer is familiar to the situation and because of this perspective erroneously feels everyone else would be equally capable of comprehending the reported data in the same way. As a result the people reading an incomplete report often interpret it quite differently than intended (Kuiper & Clippinger, 2012).
In order to avoid misinterpretations of the information presented, police reports should be written with simple words and phrases. Additionally technical jargon, colloquialisms and language related to a specific group can simplify understanding within the proper context but can be the basis of communication outside the reference group. The structure of the report can also make the report easier to read and understand. For example, run on sentences should be avoided and paragraphs kept short to avoid the reader missing any important details while reading (Oliu, Brusaw, & Alred, 2010).
While being complete is important, the information must be presented in a way that isn’t redundant or over inclusive. Sometimes in an effort to be complete the reporter will include more information than required for the reader to fully understand the intended message. Efficient writing uses the least number of words to communicate the intended message accurately, completely and clearly. Conciseness if often added to a report through the editing process. Concise writing helps the reader focus on the main idea of the report and thus, helps them reach the intended conclusions.
In summary, for a police report to communicate the intended message efficiently it must have certain characteristics. First, it must factual and include a true representation of the situation and circumstances. Second, it should include all the relevant information and not have blanks the reporter assumed the reader could fill. Third, it should be structured in a way that facilitates reading and understanding and not be written using jargon or language specific to one group or context. Finally, it should be written with the least amount of words to provide an accurate, complete and clear presentation of the intended message. An accurate, complete, clear and concise police report is one that will convey the intended implications that is meant by the writer in an effective manner.
- Kuiper, S., & Clippinger, D. (2012). Contemporary Business Reports. Cengage Learning.
- Oliu, W. E., Brusaw, C. T., & Alred, G. J. (2010). Writing that Works with 2009 MLA and 2010
APA Updates: Communicating Effectively on the Job. Macmillan.