Report writing becomes less overwhelming when you realize that there are only four types of police reports. Type 1 is the most basic, Type 2 adds one factor, Type 3 adds another factor, and Type 4 is the most complex. That means you’re actually learning how to write one basic report with variations.
When you’re new to law enforcement, report writing can seem overwhelming: Every call is different and seems to require a different type of report.
But after a while you’ll see that police calls and investigations fall into four categories. Once you’ve learned the four types of police reports, you’ll have an outline to follow every time you write a report.
You’ll also discover that each type builds on the previous one, like a stairway. Type 1 is the most basic, Type 2 adds one factor, Type 3 adds another factor, and Type 4 is the most complex. That means you’re actually learning how to write one basic report with variations.
Here are the four types of police reports:
Type 1: You simply record the facts. There is no police investigation, and you don’t make an arrest. Type 1 includes incident reports, missing persons, and many non-violent offenses. In most cases you’ll obtain the facts from witnesses, victims, and suspects. It’s usually a good idea to write a separate paragraph for each person you talk to.
Type 2: In addition to recording the facts, as in Type 1, you add your own investigation: Looking for footprints, fingerprints, the point of entry or exit, or other types of evidence.
Type 3: The additional factor here is that you become part of the story—you might break up a fight, chase a suspect, find a missing child, or make an arrest. In most cases you’ll begin your report with witness, victim, and suspect statements about what happened before you arrived. Then you’ll explain what prompted you to get involved (probable cause) and what you did. It’s important to be specific: “Gordon slapped Fitch’s right cheek” is better than “Gordon became aggressive.”
Type 4: What’s different about a Type 4 report is that you’re not dispatched to the scene—you make your own decision to get involved. For example, you might see a car driven recklessly or a man battering a woman. This is the most complex type of report because it requires you to establish probable cause for becoming involved. Again, it’s important to be specific: Not “reckless driving” but “the car crossed the center line three times in thirty seconds.” The more details you provide, the less likely you are to have to defend your report in court.
The easiest way to remember the four types is to focus on what the officer does:
- Type 1 Records the facts
- Type 2 Records the facts and investigates
- Type 3 Records the facts, investigates, and takes action
- Type 4 Initiates police involvement, records the facts, investigates, and takes action
You can download and print a free handout about the four types of police reports at this link: bit.ly/FourTypes. Refer to the handout as often as needed, and you’ll soon find that you’re automatically classifying your reports by type—and feeling more confident about the report-writing process.