Types of Reports Required as a Law Enforcement Officer
Law enforcement officers serve an elemental role in the general structure of the criminal justice system. Apart from enforcing ratified laws and apprehending offenders, a significant portion of police work entails documenting detailed facts and events linked to a specific incident. Report writing is often regarded as a mark of competence in law enforcement and is, eventually, vital in facilitating the successful prosecution of offenders. According to Dukore (2017), any arrest, investigation, cross-examination, or administration are routinely guided by detailed police reports. Law enforcement officers are, therefore, expected to refine their report-writing skills to guarantee their efficiency in documenting incidents accurately; based on facts and further bolstered by painstaking attention to detail.
Police reports should, at all times, reflect broad aspects of a particular incident as protection when subjected to legal scrutiny before a court of law. Furthermore, police reports should be based on honesty, integrity, and neutrality to assure all parties involved of fairness within the CJS. They are also helpful in identifying offenders, who are then arrested and prosecuted based on initial criminal reports made. Police reports are valuable as a point of reference for law enforcement officers testifying before ad hoc preliminary hearings. Police reports are a source of valuable statistical data on crime hotspots, crime trends, staffing, and equipment needs. This discussion will, thus, cover traffic crash reports, misdemeanor reports, domestic violence reports and felony reports; information required to complete them and reasons for completing them.
Traffic Crash Reports
Typically, law enforcement officers are among the first responders reacting to traffic accidents. They are responsible for public safety, providing much-needed assistance, critical in identifying offenders. Traffic crash reports are, therefore, decisive as a reliable source of accurate incident documentation and should also be completed by law enforcement officers as a form of public service. Declassified traffic crash reports are shared with the public in due course as a sign of transparency while also striving to build trust and confidence in law enforcement agencies. In Titus 2:7-8, the early missionary proclaims: “In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing incorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned: that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.” emphasizing the importance of sincerity and truthfulness (New International Version, 2015).It is prerequisite for law enforcement officers to respond promptly when dispatched to a traffic crash incident, as a paramount phase when playing investigative role.
Traffic crash reports are a common face of investigations steered after a motor vehicle collision incident have been reported. Before compiling a traffic crash report, law enforcement officers should gather key facts as a useful guide once formal investigations commence. Traffic crash investigations extend to independent witnesses, drivers’ account of the incident, photographic evidence of the aftermath, visible damage to vehicles, infrastructure and facilities, in addition to drivers’ speed at the time of the incident (Vredeveldt et al., 2018). This information is necessary in enabling investigators’ efforts to reconstruct traffic crash incidents and in determining factors likely to have caused the accident. However, traffic crash reports must always be based on tangible facts; which is why law enforcement officers should avoid including personal thoughts or theories on the possible cause of a collision. Any given traffic crash report will identify the parties involved in a traffic incident and a detailed transcript of interviews conducted at the scene. Independent witnesses accounts should also be included in the report, together with the officer’s decision on whether a crime was committee and accompanying suitable enforcement action taken (if any). Traffic crash reports ultimately play a chief role in safeguarding those harmed due to negligent conduct by ensuring they are fairly compensated and those guilty of engaging in criminal activity or reckless driving prosecuted. Once finalized, individual traffic crash reports will be submitted to respective Police Chiefs for approval, and afterwards entered into a precinct’s database.
Misdemeanor reports encompass low-level crimes such as larceny, disorderly conduct, public nudity, or trespassing. The maximum punishment for misdemeanor-type crimes is a 1-year sentence in federal penitentiary, although judges may exercise their discretion to lower offender’s sentence. For law enforcement officers, the most important element to consider when filing misdemeanor report is the class or level of the crime reported. This process differs from one jurisdiction to the next due to specific legal precedents guiding the recording of misdemeanor cases in the United States. While some deem data on misdemeanor crime as a significant reference in tracking possible offenders and predicting future criminal behavior, others choose to disregard it as irrelevant principally during the appraisal of criminal records. Misdemeanor cases are catalogued as Class A (Level 1), Class B (Level2, or Class C (Level 3) crimes with different punishments assigned to each grouping. Level 3 offenders receive a maximum sentence of 90 days, 180 days for Level 2, and 1 year for Level 1 offenders (Garmire & Squires, 2016). When documenting a misdemeanor report, a law enforcement officer must specify the crime, maximum sentence for offender (if convicted), and the possibility of additional fines being levied. The complaint form must also be included with the names of litigants affected by the incident. Misdemeanor reports are, ordinarily, brief; which is why law enforcement officers should always strive to purely document facts related to the case. In most instances, police precincts use a pre-printed form to record relevant data once a misdemeanor crime is reported to make certain law enforcement officers are brief, concise, and accurate when documenting the incident.
Felony crimes encompass serious criminal offences and with harsher sentences for offenders. Generally, punishment for any offences classified under felony crimes is over 1 year in a federal penitentiary. Once convicted, offenders are labeled felons for life. The most crucial element to consider when filing a felony report is crime grouping. Felonies are divided into two; crimes against people (assault, rape, criminal battery, manslaughter, kidnapping, & drug possession) and crime against property (theft, arson, vandalism, & fraud) (Hutton et al., 2017). Felony degrees recorded in police report should be based on legal classifications specific to each state. Law enforcement officers should be conscious of principal department protocols guiding the filing of felony reports and begin at the appointed time once an incident has been reported. Details recorded by a law enforcement officer should be constructed on their reflection of the incident and corroborated by initial side notes. In particular, the narrative section should document case details in chronological order and any other events related to the case. Specific details, such as street address, date, and time, should also be recorded, in addition to the names of other law enforcement officers present. Furthermore, the nature of the incident should also be specified in felony report and relevant information such as when the call was made and contents of the correspondence. The information recorded in a felony report should be objective and should only include reported facts.
Domestic Violence Reports
Domestic violence cases are, every so often, dispatched as emergency priority calls given their emergent nature. As a consequence, domestic violence reports are a vital piece of document, given their role in determining victims’ fate when attempting to escape abuse. If done correctly, a domestic violence report can serve as a strong foundation for prosecuting offenders through tangible evidence based on victim accounts.
Law-enforcement officers are duty-bound to provide a detailed, accurate, and complete domestic violence report to avoid undermining victims’ endeavor to end a particular cycle of abuse, while also safeguarding them from future reprisals by offenders. Law enforcement officers should comply with department policies and procedures on reporting domestic violence cases. According to Howe (2017), each domestic violence report should include a detailed narration of the incident and whether or not the officers on scene determined an offense had been committed.
Additionally, domestic violence reports should clarify whether the offender (dominant aggressor) was identified during the incident and subsequently apprehended. Interview transcripts from witnesses present at the scene should also be included as part of the domestic violence report. Additionally, the domestic violence incident report should also document any visible signs that the alleged offender was intoxicated and a result of the inquiry into whether guns and deadly weapons were on scene. Information regarding the presence of guns or deadly weapons and whether they were procedurally confiscated and receipts issued should also be documented. Additionally, each domestic violence report should also include the name and date of birth of any minor living in the residence and whether an Emergency Protective Order (EPO) was provided.
Report writing is, arguably, the most significant part of police work today. It entails collecting and documenting data relevant to a particular reported incident and essential in determining and in recommending appropriate legal action against offenders. Currently, traffic crash reports, misdemeanor reports, domestic violence reports and felony crimes are four of the most common types of reports that completed by law enforcement officer. Each contains incident-specific details crucial to an investigation and subsequent prosecution of offenders. Yet, they are all reliant upon the objectivity of the reporting law enforcement officer. Thus, report writing in law enforcement should be comprehensive, concise, accurate, and specific to improve the probability of positive outcomes in the long run.