we will use a pre-recorded role playing scenario to practice making observations in a law enforcement situation. In this simulated crime scene, two officers respond to report of an after-hours open door at a commercial establishment (the Red Wolf Bar), in other words, a potential burglary.
We are using this recording for practice in observing and reporting what happened. You will pretend (role-play) that you are one of the two officers who responded. The other officer is your partner. You will write your report from the perspective of whichever officer you choose to be in the scenario. You may change the names of the officers as you like. Write in the first-person (I, we) from the viewpoint of whichever officer you choose to be.
We are not using this old, role-played video for response procedures, of course. If you continue on to a law enforcement academy, or are already a certified officer, you will notice that the officers here did several things differently (and less safely) than the way you will be taught. We are just using this video for practice in accurately writing down what we see and hear happen.
Begin by watching the video. Here it is again: https://youtu.be/m3W0aif1-E0
I recommend that you watch the video at least 3 times. The first time, just watch to see what is going on. That viewing gives you context. The second time, begin taking notes. Because this is a learning exercise, not real life, stop and start the video as necessary so you can record names, places, dates, times and events. We are building skills here, not testing you on your ability to hear fuzzy, indistinct dialog on an old video. Listen as many times as you need in order to write a good report.
The third time, check to make sure you have all your details straight. Also, if you have had any difficulty understanding any of the speakers or their words, by now the words should be clearer to you as you listen. Pay attention to where objects and people are positioned in the rooms. Listen carefully to the responses and compare them to the circumstances. Are the responses of the intruder to the officer questions credible? If not, why not? What OBSERVATIONS support this?
You MUST include whatever the intruder says (even if it conflicts with what appears to have happened), because that is relevant information for the fact-finders to use to assess credibility, as well as potentially exculpatory evidence. If you leave it out potentially exculpatory statements by a defendant in the real world, a defense attorney may get the case dismissed without a conviction. You have an ethical obligation to include that information in your report. Make it clear these were statements (spoken words) rather that actions which you observed. (Ex: Jones told me that he. . . )
Begin your report with your dispatch information. Your first sentences should explain that you were dispatched to the bar, and the reason. You will have to create a time and date for dispatch and for your arrival. Pick something reasonable given this scenario. Pick one of the officers (whichever you prefer) and write your narrative report in the first-person, as if you were that officer. Write about his actions as if those actions were your actions. (I entered the bar with my partner, Officer Smith.) In your report, the other officer will be your partner; use third-person to write about his actions, as well as the actions of the intruder.
Remember to write your report in past tense. Pay close attention to the events in the video and make sure you include all the observations you make of the actions and conditions. What did you see? What did you do? What did you hear? Remember to include times of arrival and other important times, address of the bar, and any important information.
Write down what happened from start to finish (chronological order), beginning with your dispatch. Document (write down) what time you arrived at the bar (you will need to add realistic times).
Separate your information into paragraphs of related information, in chronological order. What did you see when you arrived on-scene? What did you do? What did your partner do? Go through, step-by-step and explain what happened. Keep your report in time-order from beginning to end.
Remember that you can condense some information into indirect quotes. Only the most critical statements by the owner and by the intruder might need to be directly quoted. Be aware that for a burglary, absence of permission to be on the premises is important to establishing the case, so if some statement demonstrates that, make sure you include it.
Likewise, if there is information which indicates someone was stealing or attempting to steal from the premises, that becomes a different crime (burglary) from a simple trespassing. Make sure you include all those relevant facts and observations.
Towards the end of the video, an arrest is made. That is always essential information for your report, so be sure to include who did the arresting, who was arrested, the basis for the arrest, the time of arrest, and whether Miranda rights were read to the person who was arrested. Conclude your report with the time you and your partner left the scene, and your destination. For example, you may have departed for MDC to transport the individual who was arrested. Again, you will have to create times for this role-playing scenario. In real-life, you will always use the actual times, of course. Unfortunately, our scenario video doesn’t give us much help on these details.
Once you have finished writing your first draft of your report, check it to make sure you have done all of the following:
1. Include all the information to answer the who, what, when, where, why and how questions. Keep your report factual and observation-based.
a. Who are you? Who did you interact with? (Remember for this report, you are one of the two responding officers.) Who else was involved in the event? Identify each participant by name if possible, otherwise by accurate description.
b. Where did you go? What is the address?
c. When did you arrive? Include the date as well as the times. When did the break in occur? When were you dispatched? What time did any other significant event occur? If you arrest someone, the time is always significant, and a mandatory item for your report.
d. Did you (or your partner) question anyone? What did the person tell you? Make sure to distinguish who is speaking when you incorporate information from dialog. If there is critical information which needs to be put in direct quotes, remember to do so.
e. If there is a “why” the event happened, or some motive, be sure to include that information if you know it. Do not guess. If someone told you why he or she did something, you MUST include that, even if you think it likely isn’t true. Make it very clear who said it. If you have observational information which tends to disprove their stated motivation, be sure to include that information in your report.
2. Use quotations properly. Use indirect quotes to summarize what others said. For important points of the story, use direct quotes. YOU MUST MAKE CLEAR WHO SAID IT. Be sure to properly punctuate all quotations. Remember, direct quotes need quotation marks. Indirect quotes just need correct sentence punctuation, no quotation marks.
3. Write your report in past tense, active voice, using quotations and observations, not conclusions. Write your own actions in 1st person (I asked Suzy what happened), and the helper’s story in 3rd person (He/She/They said it was a sunny day). Note that for DIRECT QUOTATIONS, you must write exactly what the person said, exactly as they said it. Do not change the verb tenses or pronouns that the person used in speaking to you. Put quotation marks around all direct quotes.
4. Carefully proof-read your report. Put it aside, then re-read it. Double-check your punctuation and capitalization, especially the punctuation of your quotations. Check for complete sentences and required information (content). Make sure it is written using first and third person, active voice, in past tense. Please make sure your report is double-spaced so there is room for comments.