Report Writing Aids

By Dees, Tim | Law & Order, December 2003 | Go to article overview

Report Writing Aids


Dees, Tim, Law & Order


Plain English for Cops

Of all the ills that complicate the lives of police recruits and the people who train them, report writing has long been at the top of the list. This unglamorous but critically important task is difficult to teach in the brief time allowed for a basic police training course, especially if the recruit comes to the academy with poor academic preparation. For the most part, only practice and coaching improves poor writing skills, but there are some resources that can make the report remediation task a bit less painful and more efficient.

If you want to try a computer-based approach, a training aid called Report Writing for Increased Convictions from the Law Enforcement Resource Center is a good place to start. This training system consists of a soft-cover instructor guide and a CD-ROM that loads into the student's computer. When the software on the CD-ROM is run, the computer connects to the LERC Web site, where the bulk of the course material resides.

The program is interactive, which reduces some of the tedium associated with training in report writing. For several of the chapters, students view video clips that take them through the events of a routine patrol incident. Following the video, the program engages the student in a question-and-answer session and a report writing exercise. Progress through the chapters is measured with a check mark, and the entire chapter's exercises must be completed before the check mark will be recorded.

At the end of the program, the student takes an online post-test and must pass with a score of 100%. If any of the questions on the post-test are missed, the chapters those questions came from get unchecked, and the student has to go back and repeat those units. The post-test is generated randomly from a bank of questions, so a repeated test will be different from the one taken before.

Chapters include focus on simplifying writing and reducing the use of jargon, basic grammar, organization of the report, getting the appropriate details, legal requirements, and special units on writing drunk driving arrests and domestic violence reports. The instructor's guide contains the answers to all workbook exercises and some additional resource materials for supplementary practice.

Using Report Writing for Increased Convictions is a different approach to what is, at best, a difficult training task. The semi-automated format allows students to complete the course on a schedule and pace that suits them and is less costly than traditional classroom training sessions, where the course has to be compressed to a relatively intense few hours. The guide has an impressive author list: Stan and Dean Berry, who have been conducting report writing training for many years, a prosecuting attorney, and specialists in training design and online course delivery. …

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