Thursday, December 22, 2011

Crime Reports And Documentation

Television shows and movies tend to romanticize or science-fictionalize the work of police officers and crime scene techs. They leave out some of the real, but not dramatic parts of the work, like writing incident reports.

But police officers write a lot of incident reports. Those reports need to be thorough and factual. They may have to stand up to adversarial examination. And they have to support any subsequent action. Sound familiar?

It should. If you're a boss, your documentation should meet the same standards. So, why not follow the same guidelines as a police officer?

Don't Wait

In many agencies, officers are expected to write their reports right after an incident if possible. Other agencies expect all reports before the officer goes off shift. Still others allow 24 hours.

The police know about memory and they know that the more time elapses between incident and report, the less accurate and complete the report is likely to be. If you can't prepare your documentation right away, take notes so you do a good job later.

Describe What Happened

List what was done and by whom. Leave the adjectives at home. Your reports will be more objective without them. Include everything that's relevant. Describe what people said and did.

Be Clear about What's What

When you write about an incident there will be things you observe, things you are told by others, and things that you deduce or decide. Make clear which is which.

Boss's Bottom Line

Documenting behavior and performance is part of your job. Learn the rules and take the time to do it well.

Thanks to Wally Bock's Three Star Leadership Blog


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