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Effective public safety report preparation

In this tip, Gordon Graham emphasizes the importance of well-written, accurate, complete, objective and timely incident reports

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Gordon Graham with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for all my friends in public safety and it deals with a very important topic: report preparation.

You know it’s important to write a good report. But how do you do it? Remember to follow three simple principles: preparation, organization, and clarity.

The best reports are written in the first person and fully recount everything you saw, heard, or learned from others in chronological order. Don’t just tell the reader what happened. Show the reader so they fully understand the incident from your perspective.

So, Gordon, where should I begin the report? Start at the point where you responded to the incident or made the first observation that triggered your investigation. Don’t skip important details or leave holes in your report. Don’t leave any questions unanswered.

Consider asking yourself this question, “If I was a defense lawyer, how would I attack this report?” Try to see the situation from a defense lawyer’s perspective.

Of course, be factual and accurate. Reports document what you know. Write what you observed. Write what you were told.

Write what happened. You can include subjective impressions or explanations that help the reader understand your perspective and your actions. But don’t speculate or include personal opinions in your reports.

A well-written, accurate, complete, objective, and timely report helps protect you, your agency, and your community. It can also help refresh your memory at a later date, or provide information for possible criminal prosecution or inmate disciplinary processes.

Every report you write is a reflection of your skill, knowledge, and professionalism. Make them all count. Why you did, what you did, when you did it: that’s so darn important.

And that is Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.

Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.