45+ Sample Police Reports

What Is a Police Report?

A police report is a written document that can either be submitted by or to the police with regard to a crime. It usually is in a narrative format, detailing the incident and describing the nature of the crime. 

According to recent federal data published by the Congressional Research Service, the number of hate crimes in the United States is on the rise. A number of high-profile crimes committed against Asians and Asian-Americans have shocked and horrified a country still reeling from a series of race-fueled protests.     

Points of View In Police Reports

Depending on the situation, you may either be a person working in law enforcement required to write police reports; or a civilian made to file a report at a police station. In both instances, they require providing and documenting information about an untoward incident or a crime. 

Law Enforcer: Police officers themselves often go through tedious processes in their line of work. Submitting reports is one of their most fundamental tasks. Different states, cities and counties each have their own system. Many police departments have also adapted to the digital age. They have an extensive network or shared database of police reports and records. Being in law enforcement requires an acute attention to detail. Filing police reports not only demands thoroughness, but also the ability to communicate effectively. Victim: From a young age, many of us are taught to go to the police if a crime has been committed. A victim of a crime needs to file a police report so the right action can be taken. Reporting a crime to the proper authorities is crucial in the investigation and prosecution of a crime. It is the first step in the quest for obtaining justice. For instance, one common crime is identity theft. A victim should immediately file a report with the police if he or she falls prey to fraud. Only then can the authorities take the necessary steps to hold the perpetrator accountable. Suspect: If you are accused of committing a crime, you may be called in by investigators for questioning. In some instances, you are made to submit a statement. Especially if you claim innocence, it is critical that you provide accurate details. Some choose to have a lawyer present first before giving any statement, verbal or written. Witness: Did you just happen to be at the scene of a crime or witness a wrongdoing take place? As a witness, you may be relied upon to testify. Your police report could make or break a case. In many cases, credible witness statements can sometimes make all the difference. Reporting a crime, even if you had no involvement in it whatsoever, makes you an unwilling participant. Thus, a responsibility is thrust upon you. As a citizen, it is your duty to assist the criminal justice process in any way you can. By submitting your testimony to the proper authorities, you would be doing the right thing.

Tips in Writing a Police Report 

If there is one basic rule to follow in writing police reports, it all boils down to effective storytelling. A good narrative is simple to follow, has logical flow, includes useful information, and describes details. To help you create a constructive police report, remember the following tips:     

Complete the Basic Details: Never neglect to provide the key information: name, contact details, date, time and location of the crime. For non-police persons filing a report, they are typically required to sign the statement as it is a formal legal document. As your introduction, explain the circumstances of where you were during the incident. If you are an officer called to the scene, explain your situation (e.g., you were on patrol and responded to the call). If you are a victim filing a report, it is always best to start at the beginning and establish a chronological order of events. This will help set the backdrop of your story. Make sure to introduce and identify the key people involved. Tell a Story: Describe the incident as best you can. An effective narrative makes an effective police report. The more detailed the account, the better. For example, you reported that a car was seen on the morning of June 16th. This does not really help authorities because it provides little to no useful information. A better incident report would be descriptive in nature: a white pick up truck was seen at Terry’s Diner at around 9:30 AM on June 16th. Including the make and model of the vehicle gives investigators a potential lead and hard evidence to work on. Being able to recall a plate number is already a big help to authorities. An insufficient report leaves out significant details. For instance, your report could state that a man entered the mall. An improved version would be: a man in a red plaid shirt was accompanied by a woman with brown curly hair; and they both entered the mall at around noon last Thursday. The Devil Is In the Details: In many court TV or crime shows, we see it play out a hundred times. If the prosecution can discredit your testimony or find even the slightest inconsistency in your narrative, this can cause the case to fall apart entirely. When it comes to details of a crime, we are not only after the quantity of information but more importantly, the quality of the testimonies. What does it matter if the witness provides a dozen leads but none of them translate to anything promising or worse, only leaves authorities more confused and stuck. Sound details absolutely make up the essence of a good police report. Realistically of course, you cannot expect a person’s memories to be 100% reliable every time. In cases such as this, it’s best to just admit your inability to recall the minute details. Being honest about your poor memory is always better than intentionally fabricating details and events. Speak the Truth: This may sound like a self-evident statement; but with the many loopholes and conflicting interests to consider, people can often end up exploited or manipulated. The unfortunate result is that the truth becomes elusive or worse, gets covered up by lies. There can be a number of reasons why people choose not to fully disclose all the facts. But for any reason someone might be withholding the truth, whether it is due to fear for one’s life’s, coercion by law enforcement, other external pressures, or the plain desire to leave the intimidating environment of a police station, makes it harder for the truth to be established. Harassment and sexual assault cases are a classic case of “He said, she said”. Sometimes the victim is coerced into leaving out truthful details out of fear and stigma. If the #MeToo movement has brought anything to light, it is that the unforgiving rape culture that has perpetuated the crime discourages victims of abuse to speak out and be heard; that it even takes decades for some rape victims to confront their trauma and allow the their truth to fully come out. Use Verbatim Language: In such cases where the people involved in your story speak or are heard sharing key information, try using quotations as you witnessed them speak- the same way you would in a novel or short story. When doing this, always keep it truthful and avoid twisting people’s words or misreading the context. Be Objective: When recalling the incident in your police report, it is important to keep an objective point of view. Narrate and describe the events as it happened, no more and no less. Resist the urge to inject any personal opinion or judgements about the crime. As a rule of thumb, only state the facts as accurately as you can.

How to Write a Police Report

For law enforcement personnel and civilians alike, writing a police report may take considerable time and effort. But learning to write an effective report is important because it may help criminal investigators hold offenders accountable and award justice to the victims. Keep these steps in mind when creating your report:    

Step 1: Fill In the Basic Details

Before your start narrating the incident, establish the key details first. This includes the name of the one filing the report, date, time, contact information, location and other relevant details that authorities might need. Providing accurate details is essential in keeping all police reports organized and correctly filed. 

Step 2: Narrate the Incident

Again, be as detailed as you can possibly be. Start from the beginning and do not leave out relevant information. Order your events chronologically. Your thoughts and story should be arranged in such a way that it helps investigators establish a clear time frame and a logical flow of events. Consider the helpful tips above to help you write a clear and rational incident report.    

Step 3: Keep to the Format

Most police reports are in paragraph form. But you can also include bullet points if it helps to clarify your information. Many police departments have standard forms that make it easier and more convenient to fill up. Nowadays, a report may be filed online and is directly stored in a large database. Still, some are done manually the old fashioned way by keeping multiple hard copies of police reports.     

Step 4: Sign and Add a Disclaimer 

At the end of your report, make sure there is enough space for the author to affix a signature. You may also include a brief truth disclaimer stating that all the information provided above are facts you know to be true, is in no way false or misleading, and are stated to the best of your ability and memory. 

Step 5: Include an Action Item or Status (Optional) 

This is for law enforcers who are tasked to respond to various complaints and reports. A report may indicate the action that was taken or is yet to be taken. For a systematic and efficient process, a police report or investigation may be labeled as on-going, closed or pending. Documentation is important in any organizational process; this also makes it easier for authorities to prioritize reports and records.     

FAQs

What is police report writing?

Police report writing is the process in which information regarding an incident or crime is collected (either done in first person or taken from a witness), written and recorded for the purpose of responding to an incident. It involves the careful documentation of essential details to aid criminal or civil investigations.

How do I make a report to the police?

You can report a crime to the police and the proper authorities directly, either by calling emergency numbers or proceeding immediately to the nearest police station. Officers then usually take your statement to begin the process. Emergency hotlines also provide quicker access to police in case you need immediate attention. Time is of the essence in many of these cases. The sooner you report an incident, the better the chances of resolving it.

Can a police report be filed online?

Yes, for some police departments, they have made it more convenient for citizens to report crimes. Many agencies have adapted, upgraded, and refined their processes over time. However, if you are unsure if your area or county is practicing this, it’s best to check with your local law enforcement agency first.

Are police reports confidential?

It depends on the governing laws of the state. Generally, police reports are considered public records and certain records should be made accessible to the public. However, some sensitive information or cases require discretion and may not be readily or easily disclosed without proper authorization.

Crimes can range from petty misdemeanors to major offenses. Whether it’s a traffic violation, a robbery with assault, or a double homicide, police reports are crucial in establishing the facts needed to help an investigation move forward and ultimately, preserve justice and order. Browse any of the printable templates and downloadable samples above to help you get started on your report!