Sample report-writing policy
The bane of many security officers' jobs is writing reports. Unfortunately, a general dislike for this task can translate into carelessness on the part of the officers, who write reports about incidents ranging from robbery to traffic accidents to fire alarms. If a security director isn't serious about report writing, then his or her officers won't be either. Make writing reports a priority. Begin by creating a policy on report writing. The following sample policy, originally published in Healthcare Security and Emergency Management, a sister publication from BHSRCM's publisher HCPro., Inc., is adapted with permission from William Farnsworth, St. Vincent's Health System in Jacksonville, FL.
Sample report-writing policyProcedure:
A. General: Eleven criteria for writing excellent reports
- Accurate documentation of an incident establishes the basis for a professional investigation. The written report should include a truthful, objective representation of the incident, exactly as it transpired.
- Complete incident reports in a timely manner. When interviewed promptly, witnesses remember details they may later forget. Also be aware of witnesses and participants who may have a personal interest in the interpretation or representation of facts. These individuals may attempt to confer with others in order to influence their comments. Interview all witnesses individually. Then, transfer notes to the appropriate report format.
- Written reports provide protection and safety to department employees, as well as to inform supervisory and administrative personnel of discovered conditions.
- Reports must be accurate. Any intentional distortion of facts makes the writer liable under criminal and civil law. Reports are often used as evidence in legal proceedings and are important in determining the outcome. Opposing attorneys or labor representatives may use an inaccuracy in a report to discredit other elements in it. In the final report, if the department employee is unsure of any detail, check the information. When completed accurately, reports can establish and promote professional credibility.
- Include only vital information in reports. Being concise does not mean eliminating pertinent data, but instead using as few words as possible.
- Base reports on facts, not opinions. Conduct investigations with an open mind and without prejudice so the report is objective. The employee must not interpret the recorded information. If it is necessary to express a personal opinion, base the information on professional expertise and note that it is an opinion.
- Reports must be specific, completed, and include details. Take time to ask for the spelling of names and never assume you know the correct spelling. When recording addresses, phone numbers, license plate numbers, and other details, the employee should repeat what he or she has written for accuracy. When quoting an individual, the employee should ask the speaker to review and initial the quote if possible. Otherwise the report should paraphrase the individual without direct quotes.
- Reports must include extensive descriptions, such as height, weight, age, race, hair, eyes, and scars or other distinguishing characteristics, such as a mustache, beard, glasses, clothing, etc. This applies to missing or stolen property, which should include size, shape, color, brand name, serial numbers, model numbers, identifying marks, or other characteristics. The best reports describe incidents in detail.
- Reports must be neat. When it is not possible to type and file reports immediately, the employee must prepare a neat, legible report, using black or blue ink. Even the most complete and accurate report is of no value if no one can decipher it.
- Reports must be original. Reports communicate facts for department evaluations--and possibly a court's use. It is imperative that those decisions be based on original reports.
- Do not give copies of reports or pictures to anyone. Refer all requests for these items to risk management.
Source: William Farnsworth, St. Vincent's Health System in Jacksonville, FL. Adapted with permission.