The Art of the Police Report

“The most despised class at the police academy is the one that teaches writing. A cadet can’t be sworn as a police officer without passing it.

The incident report he’ll learn to write is the factual narrative account of a crime—of a rape, robbery, murder, criminal threat, lewd act, vandalism, burglary, sexual molestation, kidnapping, or assault. Every event a cop responds to generates a report.

Crime reports are written in neutral diction, and in the dispassionate uni-voice that’s testament to the academy’s ability to standardize writing. They feel generated rather than authored, the work of a single law enforcement consciousness rather than a specific human being.

So how can I identify Martinez from a single sentence? Why do his reports make me feel pity, terror, or despair? Make me want to put a bullet in someone’s brain—preferably a wife beater’s or a pedophile’s, but occasionally my own? How does he use words on paper to hammer at my heart? Like all great cops, Sergeant Martinez is a sneaky fucker. He’s also a master of inflection and narrative voice.”

“A Los Angeles cop writes ‘just the facts’ and still tells one helluva story.”

(Thanks to Jason for the link.)

2 responses to “The Art of the Police Report

  1. THanks for that link. I really enjoyed reading that.

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