I knew it was going to be bad..I didn't know it was going to be this bad. My task this month has been attempting to finish a big project I started in the spring of last year. It is not anything too exciting (therefore the lack of blog posts for the last week or two). I've been tasked with coming up with a "report writing curriculum" to teach new incoming officers as well as our seasonal law enforcement officers how to write a good police report.
I've always been a little shocked at the poor quality of reports coming from officers who supposedly somehow graduated from college. But now I'm questioning the quality of some of our state universities! Granted, those of you who follow this blog may say that I'm a pot calling the kettle black, but in my defense, whatever happens to appear on the screen before me the first time I type it is what gets posted on the blog. I'm typing with one hand while changing a diaper with the other- I don't have time to edit. However, I do write a column for a magazine bi-monthly and I edit the hell out of that. I think the only thing I edit more than my magazine column are my investigative reports.
So, recently in my pursuit to finish my report writing training booklet that will be used later this spring, I decided to add several "good examples" of investigative reports for officers to use as models. This sounds like it would be rather easy doesn't it? Just shoot some emails off, get some reports back, change them all to first person (as our department has always written in the 3rd person and I've managed to change our future practice to bring us into the modern era of police writing), spell check, grammar check, change all the names and stick them into the appendix of my booklet. I was wrong.
I sent emails out, I received reports in return. And I was horrified. Mostly because I sent these requests to officers who I thought would be decent report writers. Instead what I received were a slurry of documents chock full of "police jargon", entire pages that were entirely made up of one sentence, randomly punctuated paragraphs and extremely poor choice of quotations (but without the quotation marks of course).
Here are a couple examples (names changed):
Officer Smith went to the rear of his truck opened the tail gate and sat down; To Smiths surprise so did Mark. Officer Smith looked at Mark and stated in 27 years of law enforcement you are probably one of the worst liars I have ever encountered. Mark did not say anything, he did hang his head.
I don't know about you, but I think, aside from the obvious problems with the structure and punctuation, the choice of quote might make the officer look, oh, I don't know, kinda nasty mean? Or, how about this:
When the door open Officer Smith stated Mark, The man answered yes, Officer Smith stuck out his hand and shook Mark's hand introducing himself as a Game Warden. Officer Smith advised Mark that he would like to talk to him about his turkey hunt, Mark said OK and Officer Smith let go of his hand.
It is good to know that he held his hand throughout the entire greeting.
Officer Smith gets up from the tailgate and moves to about the front door of his truck, Mark follow, and Officer Smith tells Mark that he has been doing this for a long time. About 90% of the people Officer Smith deals with are good people, 20% would bend the rules if they thought no one was looking. The last 10% are just poachers.
Hmmm....I'm no math prodigy but....
I feel bad poking a little bit of fun at the officer here, but really? Anyway, I better get back at it. This might take awhile.