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The Importance of Professional Writing Skills in Law Enforcement
Accurate and intelligent reporting and documentation is crucial to Law Enforcement. Police officers spend a significant amount of time completing paperwork necessary for the criminal justice process. An officer is most often the first point of contact in a criminal situation, and having professional writing skills is imperative to creating a thorough, well-written report.
Law Enforcement and the Craft of Writing
Common Types of Law Enforcement Reports
Law enforcement reporting encompasses a wide spectrum of information. Some of these reports include:
- Arrest Report: Written at the time of an arrest, including the probable cause, arrest, and the temperament of the suspected person.
- Evidence Collection Report: Launches the chain of evidence, such as who discovered the evidence, when and where it was located, who collected it, and its disposition.
- Crime Report: Written after a crime has occurred, including all aspects of the crime (location, date and time, evidence taken, loss or injuries, and suspect depiction).
- Event or Incident Report: Used to document events that are not measured as criminal, such as emergency medical calls or civil disputes.
- Narcotic, Drunk Driving, Intoxication Report: A report describing a suspect’s condition at the time of the crime, including the influence of substances, be it alcohol or drugs.
- Clearance Report: States the outcome of a case, and could include the arrest, the recovery of property or the filing of a complaint. This report serves as the conclusion of a case.
Importance of Effective, Well-Written Reports
A written report is often the first impression an officer makes on commanding officers, lawyers, or judges – and a poorly written report can cause an inaccurate portrayal of competence level. Additionally, it can also mean the difference between a rightful conviction and an erroneous release of a guilty person. On the other hand, an accurate and intelligent report can make a positive first impression, and has the ability to lead to new opportunities for the future.
A well-written report can also serve the following purposes for an Officer of the Law:
- Time saver: Accurate organization of the material and repetition elimination can cut hours out of an officer’s reporting time.
- Better court preparation: A well-written report can prove more efficient in a court of law, speaking more logically and correctly to lawyers and judges.
- Possible avoidance of court: A report that leaves little material for questioning could help an officer avoid having to attend court at all. If the report is written clearly and leaves little room for questions, counsel may have no reason to call the officer into the court.
- Respect from superiors and fellow officers: If a report is written well the first time, an officer’s superior has little revision to make, saving time and energy and earning the officer respect in the eyes of his/her superior.
- A gateway to a Criminal Justice writing career: Crime and punishment has always been a topic of interest for the general public, and writing about criminal justice experiences is an option for those who polish their professional writing skills.
The Criminal Justice field requires individuals with the skills to not only prevent and apprehend crime, but to precisely report those apprehensions as well. Accurate reporting is more than just including all necessary facts and information; it is effectively demonstrating cognitive and technical skills as well. A Masters Degree in Criminal Justice can arm a Law Enforcement officer with these valuable writing skills. With courses such as “Professional Writing for Law Enforcement”, officers will learn the craft of writing,thus learning the techniques and skills of effective communication in the law enforcement workplace.