LAPD Circa 1976 Academy; Class on P.I.R. (Preliminary Investigation Report.) The absolute high art of Police writing… Third person narrative. Just the facts Ma’am! Dragnet, Sgt. Friday style.
Police report writing demands a succinct, straight to the facts, narration style. The P.I.R. was broken into sections.
Source of activity: this establishes who you are why and you were there. Essentially, how things came to be.
Observations: What you observed in detail. This must be precise and straight to the point. It includes one’s expertise such as in the area of narcotics, gangs, car thefts etc. Distances, suspect’s actions, lighting conditions, timelines, witnesses, evidence recovery, any use of force applied are among some, just some, of the details which must be accurately accounted for.
Arrest: The conduction of the arrest and on what established codes/crimes the suspect in question was arrested and what charges are preferred.
Statements: Either spontaneous on behalf of the suspect or in direct response to a Miranda (Anything you state, can be used in a court of law etc.) warning.
Evidence: Any evidence to be booked into property listed and detailed.
I have no earthly idea how many of these beauties I filled out in my career, but it was a lot. They were written on paper in pencil such that any mistakes/modifications could be corrected without the assist of “liquid stupid,” aka Whiteout. They were time consuming and a pain in the behind especially if there were volumes of evidence to be booked. Each individual piece had to be numbered marked and bagged into evidence. At times the evidence listing far surpassed the narration itself.
The P.I.R. is where one develops the formal word crafting skill set and to brevet and synopsize each and every observation and sentence. It is not “I” but rather “Officer Reitz observed…” The report then wound its way to the Watch Commander for approval and then subsequently to the Detectives who took it from there.
Your partner booked the suspect and you wrote or vice-versa. It is decidedly the most unglamorous aspect of police work and one which I have never seen depicted on the big screen. The Ferrari’s, oceanfront condo, babes, shootouts, pursuits and sexy shoulder-holsters are all Hollywood B.S. It’s more along the lines of, smelly suspects, cramped report writing rooms and the station’s cheap coffee’s feeble attempt to fight fatigue. Arrest three separate suspects in the course of one evening and one was definitely putting in for a “greenie” or overtime.
I did one time, due to boredom, start my narrative with the following; “This is the City of Los Angeles, it has many stories… the following is one of them.” Now somehow, this particular line escaped the Watch Commander’s attention and miraculously, the Detectives as well. It did not however, escape the District Attorney. Within days, I was standing tall before the man explaining my actions and vowing to never repeat the same. If I remember correctly, I pleaded to the sudden onset of gross stupidity for no discernible reason whatsoever. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.
In any event, the old school P.I.R. has long ceased to exist. It’s now computers, spellcheck and other various forms of electronic record keeping. Long since passed are the #2 Faberhard pencils, dictionaries, liquid stupid and small, smelly, prison green report writing rooms with steel framed chairs!