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How to improve public safety report writing

Sometimes people will only judge you or your agency by the quality of your report, so take the time to do it right, and check your work!

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Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for all my friends in public safety who write reports.

Okay, so report writing is boring and time-consuming. But listen, it’s a critical part of the job. Reports help your agency accomplish its mission. Sure, a report may get filed and never see the light of day. But it may end up passing through many hands-on future occasions. Those hands might belong to attorneys or judges. Even victims, offenders, journalists, or special interest groups. You get the idea.

So, good report writing is important. But I’m not here to tell you how to write a good report. What I want to stress is the importance of reviewing your reports before you submit them. Check them for accuracy, completeness, spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

You’re probably saying, come on, Gordon, the lieutenant reviews my reports. Look, don’t just rely on your supervisor or your internal approval process to catch your mistakes. You’d be surprised at the mistakes I’ve seen in so-called “approved” reports. Misspelled names, wrong dates or locations, missing punctuation. The list goes on. Like a dirty or wrinkled uniform, a report full of errors reflects poorly on you and your agency. Imagine that report being scrutinized in court, or in some other public forum.

And let’s not forget the unintended consequences of the word processor. Don’t be tempted to pull up a past report and copy and paste information into the new one. Inevitably, you’ll incorporate inaccurate details and create inconsistencies. That’s a ticket for tragedy.

Whether you type, dictate, or write your reports with pen and paper, there are many ways to check your work. Use an online dictionary, thesaurus, or spell-check. Have a trusted co-worker review your report. Compare names, dates, and other important information in data fields with your narrative. Make sure everything matches.

The extra five minutes enhances quality control and projects professionalism. Sometimes people will only judge you or your agency by the quality of your report. So, be professional and always review those reports!

And that’s 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.
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