Create an incident report about a bank hold-up, using well-constructed paragraphs, logical transitions, consistency, and professional tone. Only two tellers were in the bank at the time of the robbery. Develop your own details to answer the questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how (see pp. 117-18 in the text for help)
Pages 117 – 118
Reports in Law Enforcement
The most frequently utilized form of written communication in law enforcement is the offense/incident report. Supplemental reports are the second most utilized form of intradepartmental communication. Virtually every department has its own unique or personalized form for reporting an offense or incident. Yet, while the form may be unique to that organization, the format is essentially the same. Every offense/incident report or supplemental report begins with field notes taken by the officer/investigator.
Every officer is issued a variety of new equipment but none is more important than the pen and the field notebook. Good field notes are vital to the preparation of a thorough and inclusive report. Notebooks should be reserved for information that relates directly to an officer’s investigations. Informational material of a personal nature should never be entered into an officer’s field notebook since this notebook may be subpoenaed as evidence in a case or possibly examined by a defense attorney on the witness stand. Since investigations and court cases may take several months or years to resolve, officers should catalog their notebooks in chronological order. Notebooks should be maintained for a minimum of three years. This cataloging should include the officer’s name, rank, departmental telephone number, and dates of inclusion.
The content of the notes should serve as an outline or brief synopsis of the event. These notes should contain personal observations, statements made by the victim, witness(es), and suspect(s). Descriptions of important persons, places, or things as well as any other relevant information should also be included. Information that may be construed as opinion rather than fact should be omitted. An officer should remember that this notebook is not a private or secure journal but a written account of investigations that may be confiscated by the agency or subpoenaed into court for examination.
The form itself is self-explanatory; it is merely a matter of filling in the appropriate blanks or checking the appropriate blocks. The narrative is the integral component of any sound offense report. An appropriate narrative adheres to the three “C’s.” Offense reports must be clear, concise, and complete. In order to insure this adherence to the three “C’s,” the following questions should be answered: who, what, when, where, why, and how.
1. Who is the complainant?
2. Who is the victim?
3. Who is the suspect?
4. Who are the witnesses?
1. What type of offense has occurred?
2. What type of action has occurred or is occurring (in the case of a domestic
disorder or neighbor dispute, etc.)?
3. What was the relationship, if any, between the victim and the suspect(s)?
1. When did this offense take place or when was the crime discovered?
2. When did you (the officer) arrive?
3. When did the suspect flee the scene or leave the area (if known)?
1. Where was the offense committed (specific address)?
2. Where are the victims, witnesses, and suspect(s) now?
1. Why was the offense committed?
2. Why were the victim and suspect(s) in this location?
3. Why did the suspect choose this victim and this time to commit this offense?
1. How was the crime/offense committed?
2. How did the suspect flee the area (on foot, in a vehicle—description or license
plate number, direction of travel)?
3. How many victims, witnesses, and suspects were involved in the crime or
The first sentence of the first paragraph should set the tone for the report: “On October 6, 1998, at 14:00 hours, I, Officer M. W. Jackson, responded to 4853 Lucerne Road in reference to a larceny complaint.” The second and subsequent sentences are composed in a manner as to support the initial or opening statement: “Upon my arrival, I spoke with the complainant, Ms. Melissa Hemby ….” In these two sentences, the date and time of occurrence, location, type of offense, responding officer, and complainant have been identified.
On most occasions, reports should be written in first person singular—i.e., I arrived at the scene …. However, upon investigations involving multiple officers, reports must denote which officer initiated what action. For example, “While Officer Cravener searched the bedroom for weapons, I, Officer Jackson, detained the suspects in the living room.”
Furthermore, every effort should be made to insure that reports are readable—both in terms of legibility and grammatically. Reports that contain insufficient evidence waste investigators’ time pursuing facts which had been previously stated to the responding officer but which were omitted from the preliminary offense report. Further, poorly written reports serve as an impediment not only to investigators but to prosecutors as well. Reports that are poorly
written force prosecutors to nolle prosequi or plea bargain otherwise sound cases. However, wellwritten reports allow prosecutors the latitude to prosecute suspects to the fullest extent of the law. They also place suspects in a position of jeopardy regarding certain statutes of the legal code.
Supplemental reports are primarily designed to add to the existing information provided in the preliminary offense reports, to record victim and witness statements. Furthermore, supplemental reports may be utilized to record suspect statements with the intent to impeach the suspect’s credibility or to compromise the suspect’s integrity. These reports also provide supervisors with the pending status of a case and allow them to manage case logs. Supplemental offense reports are also used to denote the gathering, processing, and disposition of physical evidence. Supplemental reports need to adhere to the same rules of grammar, punctuation, and style as offense/incident reports.
Communication within departments and within agencies occurs through the use of memoranda. Memoranda serve to inform an individual or individuals concerning a particular event or occurrence, to make an official record, or to request action or a service. A memorandum is an inappropriate means of communication with the public since they are always reserved as “in-house” communication devices.
Memoranda take two forms: intradepartmental and interdepartmental. Intradepartmental memoranda are documents that are generated and circulated within a department. Interdepartmental memoranda are documents that are generated and circulated between two or more departments. These memoranda may take the formal or informal approach, depending on their purpose and the level of communication involved. For instance, a memo from
contemporaries who may differ in rank may take an informal tone. However, in the situation where a subordinate addresses a superior officer and they are not contemporaries, a formal tone is adopted.
Memoranda always adhere to the same format with a heading that includes date, to, from, and subject. Memoranda may be more loosely constructed than offense/incident reports and supplemental reports. However, proper grammar and punctuation are essential to effective communication.
Below is a 'fictional' sample report. Adapt it as you will.
Santa Barbara Police Department, State of California
Incident Report: Bank Robbery with Homicide at Amherst & Main
Incident Report Number: 08-00012
Name of Business: Bank of America
Date of Occurrence: Thursday, July 3, 2008
Time of Occurrence: between10:00 and 10:10 AM, just after opening hours
Contact Telephone: 0175587702
Description of Event:
At around 8 am Bank manager Julian Davis arrived to prepare the bank for opening. He noticed a black van parked in front of the bank, he did not give much heed to it as it was a public parking space. Soon other employees arrived: assistant manager, cashiers, tellers, accountant, office support, marketing personnel as well as the 4 security guards who guard the back exit, the entrance, one who statically mans the bank's hallways and operating hall and the guard who monitors the events through the cctv camera system that is strategically placed around the bank from the front entrance, the back, the hallways, the shared offices, the operating hall and the vault. This branch of the bank is your typical community bank - locals & businesses in the area bank with them.
July 3 being the day before the Independence Day parade with the bank participating being that their office is ...
The solution is a simulated 'Incident Report' on a bank robbery/hold up. This is a sample incident report that follows all the necessary guidelines in incident reporting: well-constructed paragraphs, appropriate language, necessary details, consistent & logical transitions. The questions of who, what, where, why when pertaining to the incident are also provided. This solution would be of use to criminology, sociology students seeking sample Incident reports. Written in APA format, worde version is attached for easy printing.