Don’t rush the report – justify use-of-force incidents

from Tom Munsey

Too often, when officers write their reports, especially after a difficult situation that requires the application of force, they get in a rush to complete their report. They want to relax a moment, or just get back on patrol, and they write their report in haste, leaving out details. While this does get the officer to a point of closure with their report and other forms — so they can move on to a different activity — it can create problems later.

Failing to fill out the report and forms in a complete and detailed manner can result in more work and complications. The documents need completed in a manner that will provide accuracy and clarity for anyone who may refer to them. Depositions, legal review, trainers, judges, other officers and the writing officer themselves may find a lack of information that is needed for clarity and accurate reference. This can result in many questions asked, often times weeks, months, or even years after the original incident occurred. Without an accurate detailed reference, and given the passing of time, the officer will be unable to recall specific information about an incident. Spending a few more minutes in writing the report will create a reference giving the detail needed to refresh their memory readily, and sharing the information without a great amount of questioning.

Successful litigation is often due to good writing with detailed reference. Leaving bits and pieces out of a report leads the person referencing it to fill in the missing items him or herself. A few extra minutes taken to write a few additional sentences, providing detail, will give the officer the solid reference they need to have a better result when the incident is reviewed.

    The full article and more important questions to put in the report can be found in the original article.