Police Reports: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Amanda Smith

Amanda has taught adult cognitive-behavioral programs in a corrections setting for the last ten years and has a bachelor's degree in Sociology/Criminology.

What is one of the most important tools police officers use on a daily basis? Aside from the tools needed to protect themselves, officers are responsible for creating police reports. This lesson will explain the various components of a police report and give examples.

Police Report Definition and Examples

You arrive home from work to find that your home has been broken into. The police arrive and write down everything that you can remember about the series of events. But what happens to all of that information? It is used to create a police report, a document that details all of the facts, circumstances, and timeline of events surrounding an incident.

Police reports vary from agency to agency, including the protocol that is to be followed when completing one; however, the general information and function is relatively the same. The report is written by the responding officer and is turned into the department for review and filing once completed. Not only does the police report provide a point of reference for investigating officers, it may also be used by the victim for insurance purposes or by court staff in the event of criminal charges.

Police Report Types

Let's look at the various components that make up a police report. Remember that these may vary by agency or be labeled as different categories, but the information collected will be the same.

Most reports will begin by describing the incident type. This will separate out property crimes from personal crimes or vehicular accidents. The incident will be labeled by the charges associated with the offense, for example, burglary, theft, assault, or domestic violence. The degree of time, such as felony or misdemeanor, may be designated here as well. A case number is often assigned in this area so that the report may be tracked and searched.

Police Report Categories

Along with the incident type, the location and time is established. This will include the physical address of the situation and the time that the incident occurred. Along with the incident time, the officer will note when they were dispatched and arrived or what time they took specific actions. In some cases, such as a car wreck, the weather may also be noted.

If we think back to arriving home and finding out the someone has broken in to your home, to complete the incident section of the police report, the officer may ask what items were taken or where you believe the suspect entered your home. To establish a time, they will ask about your schedule that day - when did you leave and what time did you get home. They will also note your address and the time that they were dispatched on the case.

After establishing the incident type and location, the next step is to gather information on the persons involved. This will include officers and their badge numbers, as well as the victims and any witnesses. If a suspect is known, their information may be included as well. Identifying information such as birth dates, physical descriptions, or the relationship to the others involved will be recorded.

The biggest part of the report is the narrative, where the officer describes the series of events that took place and the details from their perspective and will read like a story. The narrative begins by stating the time and location of the incident and will begin to tell the story, starting from the time the officer was dispatched through their arrival and interaction with those involved. It will detail the names of the parties involved and describe the scene.

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