The INFOJUSTICE Journal Fundamentals of Report Writing Part 1


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  Audits or reports are your personal overview of the investigation in a nutshell.  From initial client contact to the trying of the case in Judicial Review.  Reports are the definition and organization of the case.  Your report must trace the entire network of events from initial entry into the case, under what circumstances, Organization of an investigative path for solving the case and prognostication about the outcome of an investigation.    

     It has been my experience that the performance of an investigator is, to a large degree, evaluated by his ability to report in writing the facts learned during the course of investigation.  Case after case has been won by the quality of documents produced.    

     For example in a larger departments where personal contact between Operations administration and subordinates is infrequent.  Regardless, a thorough investigation followed by a neatly prepared and competed report attracts considerable recognition.  Prompt and carefully prepared reports are essential to the investigator'’ total work performance.  Your true worth as an Agent can be determined by the content, inductive and deductive based reasoning and completeness of your Audit.  It is clear; a person who lacks the skill to prepare an adequate report makes their desirability for particular assignments where knowledge or information is the product, regardless of their investigative ability. 

     A superior can easily evaluate your work and progress and may prove the sole information necessary to make sound administrative or supervisory command.  Careful reviews of reports prepared by field agents may lead to the detection’s of circumstances and features that are common to a number of cases under investigation.  Armed with information such as Modus Operandi, physical description of suspect, and witness statements and your narrative may indicate that one individual may have committed more than one offense.  Your superior can better correlate and direct the efforts of other Agents and their assignments.  Powerful leads may be recognized from your reports which may require follow up such as particular responsibilities to other units or agencies, crime laboratory or federal laboratory.     These reports, which arose out of the course of an investigation, keep co-workers and Operations informed of the work being performed. 

     Progress reports are significant in that they tend to prevent duplication of efforts when several officers are assigned to one case.  Report availability is valuable when another Agent relieves the original officer.  Reports are used to brief the relieving Agent, provide a deeper insight into the case, and inform them of the work already performed.  Your investigative report provides the foundation upon which the prosecution builds its case.  The prosecuting attorney depends upon the factual presentation of an investigation to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to proceed on a specific charge.  The prosecuting attorney relies upon the report to inform him of the evidence he will be able to present the names of witnesses, what the probable defense will be and other details, which can be used to plan their strategy.

    A thorough investigation is fundamental to the preparation of a satisfactory report.  The report becomes the official memory of the department.  Carefully identified and filed for years to come when it may once again be called upon to play an important role.   Old investigative reports consistent with an Agent looking for consistency between current crimes is a seasoned veteran armamentarium.   That task force is usually developed prior to any cases, and when in need, they begin work at a command.



     The accuracy of the report must be a true presentation of all the facts whether they are favorable or not tot the subject, suspect, witness and the types of persons involved.  Your narrative should be presented easily and clearly for comprehension.  An error free report is often difficult to obtain regardless of whom the writer is.  The unintentional mistakes affect the correct interpretation of the case as a result from the inability to distinguish between facts and hearsay, fact and opinion from using words that do not clearly express the intent.


Hearsay vs. Fact.

     Hearsay evidence is implied “when an unverified statement of a third person regarding another” is recorded.  Thus witness through their senses from the original source can make fact from personally leaned information.  If for example, a witness tells the Agent that the suspect has a previous criminal background, this is hearsay.  Only after this information is checked out or Verified through departmental records and other agencies will it become fact or fallacy. 

     In that instance when it is impractical to verify every statement a witness, suspect or victim makes, these are considered hearsay and could be qualified as alleged to be, believed to be, described as rather tan to make a positive statement of fact.

    The following are examples of statements, which are hearsay or fact.  Hearsay.  The suspect is alleged t be married to the victim’s daughter.  Fact.  The suspect is married to the victim’s daughter. 

     Opinions regarding the credibility of information must not be expressed.  The Agents responsibility is to report only the acts, not unsubstantiated opinion regarding the honesty, judgment and reliability of a subject.  These statements can prejudice the reader and affect the accuracy of the reports.  Personal opinions or those of others are not fact.  For example and Opinion would be “Her record of five previous arrests for theft indicates she has the characteristics of a sadistic criminal.  However, it could factually be stated “The record shows five previous arrests for armed robbery in which each victim was pistol whipped.    

     Us as simple and direct language and select your vocabulary to increase the accuracy and clarity of your report.  Avoid ambiguous words or phrases, which force a reader to rely on his judgment to interpret a report.  This is how the potential for inaccuracy appears.  For example early morning, later hour, and a medium height with a large amount of money are terms, which force the reader to guess what the writer is trying to say.  One test interns are encouraged to do in to after preparing a report and you fear some statements or passages may lead to a false interpretation, have another Agent read it.  If the Agent obtains a meaning different than what you intended, your report is inaccurate.        

     When communicating time the use of military time eliminates potential sources for error.  0300 is 3:00 A.M., WHILE 1500 HOURS ALWAYS REPRESENTS 3:00 PM.  Frequent inaccuracies reported are telephone numbers, addresses, e-mail are anything with numbers.  Always double-check the spelling or number sequence before writing them in your report.  Careful of what and how you write.  Spelling errors, a misplaced comma or period can also change the meaning of a statement or confuse the reader.  Today, editor’s such as myself are moving away from placing a period after all initial of certification, degrees and so forth.      

     Review your own reports.  Distinguish that all the facts that were learned during the investigation are relevant to the case.  There are no partially stated facts, which only cause an incorrect interpretation but may be as misleading as a falsehood.  Incomplete information can hamper the conduct of the investigation if decision is based upon half-truths mistaken to be fully stated facts.  All events pertinent to the case are reported consistently.  Leave no room for the reviewer’s imagination to wonder.      

     Progress reports can list all the undeveloped leads and explain the kind of information you expect from each course.  State any reasons for not taking action (laboratory examination not completed).  List the sources that produce negative results.  If your essential information is lacking, state the efforts used to obtain it.  Your final report must include documentation as evidence of the work you performed.  All appended statements, co9nfessions, findings made by other agonies, such as the medical examiners and laboratories.      

     Avoid the pitfalls of repetition of information, superfluous descriptions, words and details.  For example relative to a persons identity, when a person is first mentioned in the body of a report, they are clearly identified by their full name (Miss, Mrs. Dr. Mr.) race, date of birth, address, telephone number and occupation or type of doctor.  Avoid slag, profanity and stick to the facts.  Never inject personal sarcasm, wit or opinion in your reports.  This principal of  concise nature of objective documentation is known as Brevity.


When  and How are Reports Written? 

     From the onset of the initial client contact to the end of the investigative case.  All reports are written for your benefit as well as Operations or your client’s.  As you will see gathering the facts, placing all relevant data including your accuracy, brevity or clarity at first will be learned by habit but later through the performance of audits.  I have performed well over 20,000 audits in my carear prior to going on now to medical school.  If for example my audit were part of the Adams Vs CSLA case; one patient would present this examiner with 3 audit reports to perform.  Thus on a large class action and bad faith case such as that, you may perform 300.   This expert will never forget when the trial lawyers asked me where to begin, and your editor said, "at the beginning?"   Then defense expert attorneys wheeled in my works to be scrutinized by the trial lawyers, it was  legal book-like bound and about seven feet long.  I turned to page one, sat silently but did catch the trial lawyers "look of dumbfounded experts" (I was advised that they were some of the highest paid trial lawyers in California at time!  By the way the defense of Auto Club was successful beyond their expectations.).  On the “Black Box” case resulting in the only National Ban on anything within the United States, I had to perform well over 4,000 individual audits with only a few individuals requiring my rechecking my initial audit with actually being sent around the nation to unite state agencies with federal agencies and alert them to what the federal experts with facts were now trying to teach, some testimony and/or deposition.   

     Even if your initial report to Operations details the steps of your investigation, you’ll already have a list of topics for which reports will be written.  The Basic Principles of Good Report Writing as presented by the One State Agencies Department follow.  I have chosen theirs to be the model for the nation.  You will learn from one Department with a large territory to cover, the 6th largest economy in the World, and how their State Law Enforcement procedures were originated.


"Justice is Truth in Action" Benjamin Disraeli 1851

© & TM 1998 American Academy for Justice Through Science. All rights reserved.

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