This week on the Writer's Detective Bureau, dictating reports, domestic violence, and the third degree. I'm Adam Richardson and this is The Writer's Detective Bureau.
Welcome to Episode Number 43 of The Writer's Detective Bureau, the podcast dedicated to helping authors and screenwriters write professional quality crime related fiction. I'd like to thank Gold Shield Patron, Debra Dunbar, from debradunbar.com and Gold Shield Patron, C.C. Jameson from ccjameson.com, and all of my Coffee Club patrons for their support month after month. Check out their author websites and read their books. You can find links to all of their websites by visiting the show notes at writersdetective.com/43. If you have your own author business, consider joining Patreon. It's free for you and it allows your readers to support you financially through monthly micro payments. Give your fans a chance to show their support by creating your own Patreon account right now. To learn more visit writersdetective.com/patreon, P-A-T-R-E-O-N.
Cops really are professional writers. Nearly everything we do during the course of an investigation results in us writing a report. If you want to create a truly spectacular detective protagonist, don't make them a seal or a jujitsu expert. Make them an English major with touch typing skills. Okay seriously, that's just real life. I guarantee you, you could write a more captivating scene about paint drying than you can about a cop typing up a police report. Stick with me here, because I have a little hack for your storytelling.
To get to that though, I need to explain a few things. Patrol officers and detectives are often expected to dictate their reports. When I was a rookie detective, I used a cassette recorder, both the full size cassettes like you made mixed tapes out of, and the mini cassettes. Eventually, we went to digital records, and I still have a few Olympus USB digital recorders to this day. I keep it in my briefcase, and every two years it was one of those things where the recording space increased for that $40.00 version of digital recorder, and so every few years I'd upgrade, right up until I got an iPhone, but anyway, the way it works is a department or secretary or administrative assistant will type the report that you create using what used to be a dictophone machine, but it's now, obviously, computer software. They still use that style of setup, where there are foot pedals under the secretary's desk to control the speed of the audio, allowing them to slow down or pause, or rewind without having to remove their hands from the home touch typing position.
Then within a day or so, the reports are then returned to the officer or the detective to review and then ultimately sign off on, and submit to their supervisor for approval. Dictating a report is definitely an acquired skill, and one that I admittedly was reluctant to learn for a variety of reasons. First of all, I could type almost as fast as the secretaries that I worked with in the detective bureau because that typing class that I took in high school, that I didn't want to, turned out to be one of the most important classes I ever took. Second, you have to learn to speak your report in a linear fashion, which means you have to think in the linear fashion as you're doing this.
Now, police reports often have a very specific format to them, and that format varies by department. For instance, the department's report writing manual may require you to start with a section that explains the relationships between all of the parties listed in the report. This is the husband, this is the wife, this is the CSI Tech that handled the evidence pick up. Following that section, there might be one that talks about the evidence, an evidence section that explains what was seized and the disposition of each item, such as where it was booked. Did it go to a specific evidence locker, and if so, you need to have that number in your report. At which station, if you have more than one station, or were they taken directly to the lab? If so, was it the department lab or the state crime lab? Were photos taken? How did they get from the camera to the evidence storage? It used to be film, now it's SD cards, and so how did it get into that database and stored in the cloud, or in the hard drive? Basically you have to account for the chain of custody in this section.
Then you may be required to have a short summary of the report as its own small section, before getting to the narrative. Then you have to document if this is a follow up report, what is it in reference to? What's the initial report?.. Continue reading...
If you like what you read here, consider joining the mailing list for updates, seminar notifications and more!