Writing a Professional report
One of the biggest complaints from clients in the protection industry is the fact that the officers can’t write reports. I should say, being more specific, reports that are legible and understandable. Most of the reports I have read when working in the field were full of misspellings, grammatical errors, and other issues.
You may think that in this day and age that everyone who is working such a communication and customer service oriented field would know how to write. But, sadly, many don’t. Some officers don’t even know how to spell, even if they’ve went to and gaduated high skool and use a dictionary.
Do I know all the answers to writing good reports for clients and ones that will stand up in court? Not by a long shot, I barely passed high school English with a D, nor do I claim to. But I can help keep you and your company outa trouble with courts, EEOC, unemployment insurance and other litigation with these tips;
Don’t write using verbose or flowery language, this isn’t a college level language class. Write your report like you’re telling a friend what happened. Be conversational.
Don’t embellish anything on the report. Write down only the facts as you come to know them, nothing more, and nothing less.
Spell out any abbreviations the first time you write them and then put the abbreviation right behind it. After that, just the abbreviation throughout. An example is security officer (s/o)
Always use people’s names in your reports if they are witnesses or reporting news of an incident to you. This will allow the company to verify exactly what they said. Not that the officer isn’t telling the truth but as an added back-up for anything that may occur later.
Always use military time, unless prohibited, this helps to avoid confusion (a little secret for you military time starts at 0001). The confusion when you write 2 O’clock, then the officer doesn’t remember whether it was AM or PM can be vitally important. Then the client and company reading the report later doesn’t know exactly either, which can be an issue if it goes to court.
Keep the report in chronological order as the officer comes to know it. In other words, write the report with the details as the officer learns them. If a fight occurs at 0400 but the officer doesn’t realize it until 0600, then he starts the report at 0600! Never write the report as if you’re omnipotent.
Use the word ‘approximately or approx.’ when writing the time. Not everyone’s watch keeps the same time. By using the term approximately you keep both the officer and the report from being questioned
It should always be written in the 3rd person. Again, this will help alleviate any confusion as to who did what, when. If you have multiple officers involved, it will definitely help keep the story line straight.
The one item I still retain from my high school days in journalism is the 5 W’s & H. That stands for: Who, what, when, where, why, & how. This is the way the report should be written. Hopefully all 6 of those can be answered. However, sometimes they can’t.
Write your report as per current business guidelines.
That could mean indenting or not. It used to be, back when I started, you indented. Nowadays, business writing doesn’t indent.
Proper grammar will also help you from being questioned about your intelligence. Grammar (6th grade level) as well as spelling, punctuation, and the like should be monitored. Always have the officer have a dictionary close by for spelling
Beginning and End of
- If allowed, then they also should draw an X through the empty part of the report, to prevent someone else from writing and adding to it. If not an X, then maybe a line that says ‘end of report’.
Fill out the report form completely. Leave no spaces unfilled. If you have empty spaces when you’re finished, then place something like N/A or unk. In them. Again, it makes it look formal and complete.
Every security company, their clients, and others, who employ proprietary officers, have a different way of writing their reports. I think it should be a standardized format for ease in courts and elsewhere, but…
These above guidelines are just that, guidelines. Everywhere an officer goes the format is bound to be a little different. And in the security field, how the client or security company wants their reports is the way you’ll write them.
Having your officers questioned over some trivial little thing such as spelling, the time, or the chronological order will only pour gas on the fire, especially if it is against the company or client. Just take care and remember these tips and you should be able to write reports that stand up in court, the EEOC, or an unemployment hearing.
Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent 33 years in the security field. Visit his Facebook page, One is too Many, where you will read about other items related to security & WPV issues. Or be a twitter follower at @robertsollars2.
I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear