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  1. #1
    Kymmie2453 is offline CJ Student
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    Use of officer opinions in reports

    Hi everyone,

    I am in my 3rd year as a criminal justice major at AIU and I am taking a report writing class. My text book is not aligned with the assignments (and my prof. and dept. chair are aware of this) and I am at my wits end on where to find the information I need to complete this assignment. So if you could PLEASE answer a few questions for me...

    I have to provide 2 example of when an officer giving his opinion in a report is beneficial and 2 when it is a hindrance ( I understand why it would be a hindrance but I need examples) I have no idea when it might be considered beneficial.

    What are 2 examples of writing reports incorrectly in the law enforcement field?

    What are the correct steps from the scene of the accident to charging an individual with a crime? (yes these questions are in sequential order and no, there was nothing about an accident anywhere else in the assignment!)

    Thank you in advance for helping me out!
    Kymberlee

  2. #2
    HudsonHawk's Avatar
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    Welcome, Kym. This forum was not intended for the purpose of doing students' homework for them. I am confident however that, between your lectures and texts, you have all the necessary material to find the answers. Good luck with your assignment.
    "never bring paws to a gunfight" - Jenna

  3. #3
    Five-0's Avatar
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    I would like to see a picture of the text book and/or the name of the book with a publisher name. You can't think of a single reason why an officer's opinion would be of use? How many times do you think that the reporting officer is the only witness to a crime?

    Meanwhile, fishing in Russia:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkzV5AIK8iM
    "When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that justifies it." -- Frederic Bastiat

    "Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter." Ernest Hemingway

    The opinions given in my signatures & threads DO NOT reflect the opinions, views, policies, and/or procedures of my employing agency. They are my personal opinions only, thereby releasing my agency of any liability, or involvement in anything posted under the username "Five-0" on Officerresource.com

  4. #4
    Xiphos's Avatar
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    We aren't supposed to put our own opinion in reports and they will be returned for correction if you do. If you put your opinion that the victim is a crackhead and delusional in a report you've created exculpatory evidence if the detective actually finds a suspect.

    I will add a victim's opinion if it adds valuable information for detectives. "Victim believes her cousin stole her tv because he's made numerous statements to her about how much he likes it but can't afford one of his own." That directs the detective on where to start looking and why I included him as a suspect on the report.
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  5. #5
    Five-0's Avatar
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    On our wreck reports there is a section that specifically asks for the investigating officer's opinion of what happened. Our I/O reports have boxes that you check stating if the crime is possibly a hate crime also. The examples that Xiphos gave, not so much.

    Meanwhile, fishing in Russia:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkzV5AIK8iM
    "When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that justifies it." -- Frederic Bastiat

    "Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter." Ernest Hemingway

    The opinions given in my signatures & threads DO NOT reflect the opinions, views, policies, and/or procedures of my employing agency. They are my personal opinions only, thereby releasing my agency of any liability, or involvement in anything posted under the username "Five-0" on Officerresource.com

  6. #6
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    1) Q: Witnesses may offer opinions when ______________________.

    2) There are answers to your questions. Think of what you should do, moving from the investigation to writing the report, and deciding which charges are appropriate to recommend to the Prosecutor.

    3) Where, or to whom, does this quote apply? Who is famous for this quote?

    "Just the facts ma-am..."
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  7. #7
    pgg's Avatar
    pgg
    pgg is offline Damnit, I'm hungry again.
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    In traffic collision reports we give our opinions on what occurred based on evidence/statments/whatever else we found. It is specifically labeled as our opinion though. In some other reports on a limited basis we will give our opinions on what occurred. It is pretty rare though.
    'Political Correctness is a doctrine fostered by a
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  8. #8
    Jks9199 is offline The Reason People Hate Cops & Causer of War
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    There is a place for an opinion in a report -- but you generally include it by what you document. (After all, that's your first real opinion; what you include or omit as important!) For example, it's not a good idea to say that the person seemed dishonest; instead "the suspect gave an inconsistent account, and evaded direct questions on these issues" begins to paint the picture.
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    All opinions expressed are my own and are not official statements of my employer.

  9. #9
    gopherpuckfan's Avatar
    gopherpuckfan is offline I'm from the government and I'm here to help
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    Writing "Based on my training and experience, I believed Smith to be operating his vehicle while under the influence of alcohol" is fine. Writing, "Based on my training and experience, I believe Smith is a dumbass who should have taken a taxi cab from the bar" is not.
    The views expressed in the above post are the sole opinion of the author and do not reflect any official position by the author's employer and/or municipality.

  10. #10
    Kymmie2453 is offline CJ Student
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    HudsonHawk - The assignment I am working on is a 6 page paper. I am certainly not asking anyone to write it for me, I am simply utilizing the resources available to me. As law enforcement officers, you are all invaluable, credible resources.
    Five-0 - The text book is Report Writing for Criminal Justice Professionals 3rd ed. by Larry Miller and Dan Moeser
    The text focuses on the mechanics of report writing such as punctuation and sentence structure. Because the assignments were written from a different text there is little information in the book. I always have to locate additional resources when writing papers but this particular topic has been very difficult. I suggested to my professor that I ask LEO's and he thought it was a good idea.
    Thank you to all who responded!

  11. #11
    berserk is offline The reason they do psych evals
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    If I think that someone is being deceptive during an interview, I will say that I thought so. I will also say why I thought so. Same with if there's some other reason I don't believe they are credible. Also, if I thought someone posed a threat to me, or to someone else, or to themselves. There will be an explanation of why I drew that conclusion, but the conclusion is still my opinion and a vital part of the report.

    For most of your other questions, it looks like you understand the concepts but you need examples. The examples you come up with would be just as viable as anything I threw out.

    I have no idea what your text is looking for regarding the correct steps from an accident to a charge. Unless your answer is supposed to be extremely vague, it depends on the circumstances and the crime. Different investigations have different requirements.

  12. #12
    BigDawg's Avatar
    BigDawg is offline K-9 Officer
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    When writing a report for a home burglary that had already occured almost always has officer opinion in it, such as;

    It appears that suspect(s) entered the residence through the bedroom window and exited through the back door.

    That statement seems pretty straight forward and correct, (how many would enter by the back door and exit the window), but it is the officers opinion because there is no witness to confirm it.
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    The statements posted by BigDawg DO NOT reflect the opinions, views, policies, or procedures of the author's employing agency. These statements are the personal opinions of BigDawg only, thereby releasing my agency of any liability, or involvement in anything posted under the user name of BigDawg. The opinions expressed by BigDawg are protected by the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. BigDawgs messages are intended to invoke thought and discussion among the "Officer Resources" forum community and may not necessarily reflect the opinion of the author. BigDawgs posts and any attachments are intended for an adult audience (18+) and may contain strong language, sexual content, nudity, violence, and may be graphic in nature. Some material may be considered offensive; reader discretion is advised. Please note that many of BigDawgs posts are intended for entertainment value only. BigDawgs posts are not intended to be used where prohibited by law. Furthermore, BigDawg's posts, and any attachments, may contain information covered by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. 2510-2521, and is confidential and proprietary in nature. If you are not the intended recipient, please be advised that you are legally prohibited from retaining, using, copying, distributing, or otherwise disclosing this information in any manner.

  13. #13
    mavriktu's Avatar
    mavriktu is offline Patrol Sgt.
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    I always have to locate additional resources
    Welcome to the wonderful world of law enforcement,now ,investigate further.

  14. #14
    MacLean's Avatar
    MacLean is offline O/R Gun mod
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    We add opinion, but only at the end.

    An officer's opinion is useful for the prosecutor, for other officers, for detectives, etc.

    I'm with berserk on this one.
    I'm your huckleberry...

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  15. #15
    Coloradocop's Avatar
    Coloradocop is offline It's the PoPo
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    Some of the others have already addressed examples of where an opinion might come into play in a report. Frankly, the line between stating an opinion and recording the facts is often very thin, and the verbage used by the officer can make a sentence read one way or another. By way of example, here are a couple of generic cases where an officer might state an opinion in a report:

    EXAMPLE 1) An exerpt from a burglary report: "It appears likely that the suspect(s) gained entry to the victim's residence through an unlocked door to the home's basement. No other signs of forced entry were found at the victim's house, and the complainant related that she had left the basement door unlocked, but was certain that the other doors and windows to the home were locked."

    In this first example, an officer's opinion is stated, but only to the extent that is necessary to explain the likely chain of events in a crime. Speculation is generally kept to a minimum, but the officer also needs to maintain an open mind for other possibilities. In this case it might be premature to state that: "The suspect(s) entered through an unlocked basement door", simply because the possibility still exists that entry was made in another manner. In short, the officer didn't see the crime take place, nor did any available witnesses. Therefore, we cannot conclusively exclude every other possible means of entry.

    For example, what if the suspect was a former roommate who had a key? In this particular instance, a point of entry may not have been obvious (like it would be in the case of a broken window with footprints on the window sill). But, the officer can still make a reasonable inference to the fact that the unlocked basement door was the most likely place of entry, barring any other evidence to the contrary. As such, writing a report in a manner which expresses this information as an opinion is not entirely inappropriate. In other words, stating this information as an opinion will be less likely to bite the officer in the butt if it turns out that entry was made through another means or method. But, excluding this information from a report would be somewhat irresponsible, at least in a case like this example, where the evidence strongly points towards that conclusion.

    EXAMPLE 2: Think of this as any generic criminal investigation with a suspect contact: "Although the subject was initially cooperative this investigation, he appeared to become very nervous when he was questioned about his involvement in the theft, and seemed reluctant to answer any further questions".

    In this second case the officer's opinion was offered regarding the suspect's observed behavior, but the officer refrained from providing an opinion about the perceived guilt or innocence of the suspect. By writing in this style an officer can communicate information regarding the non-verbal cues of a subject, without giving an appearance of bias towards (or against) this individual. Our job as officers is to be unbiased investigators, and an officer would be well-served to avoid an appearance of prejudice in a report. However, communicating information about the suspect's demeanor and mannerisms can still be useful, especially in a case where further investigation is going to be conducted by detectives.


    Poorly written opinions are a dime/dozen, but a couple of examples of these might be:

    "The suspect acted like I think a guilty person would act, and I think that she was responsible for the theft".

    or

    "The television in the home was missing, but I think the suspects were actually looking for money".



    As a final thought:

    If your opinions are really just a carefully worded expressions of fact, then they are probably okay to include in a report. On the other hand, if your opinions are merely expressions of gut-feelings, personal biases, or unsupported hunches, then they should most certainly be excluded from your reports.

  16. #16
    berserk is offline The reason they do psych evals
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coloradocop View Post
    If your opinions are really just a carefully worded expressions of fact, then they are probably okay to include in a report. On the other hand, if your opinions are merely expressions of gut-feelings, personal biases, or unsupported hunches, then they should most certainly be excluded from your reports.
    Not sure about that last part. Opinions by definition are not facts. I think a better rule of thumb is this: if your report is explaining a decision that you made or an action that you took, then you will need to include some of your opinions. If your report is documenting circumstances that you had nothing to do with, then your opinion is probably unnecessary.

    I wouldn't write in a report that the suspect probably made entry through an unlocked basement door. I would just write that the basement door was unlocked. I also wouldn't write that the suspect probably made entry through the open window with footprints outside of it, I would just write that there was an open window with footprints outside of it.

    On the other hand, if some dude scared the shit out of me, I would write that I was in fear for my safety. If I was convinced that some guy was slipping a fake name, I would write that he appeared to be deceptive. The first example would be part of an explanation of why I twisted the dude up, the second example would be part of an explanation of why I detained him for an extra 20 minutes while I was trying to verify his identity.

  17. #17
    Coloradocop's Avatar
    Coloradocop is offline It's the PoPo
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    Quote Originally Posted by berserk View Post
    On the other hand, if some dude scared the shit out of me, I would write that I was in fear for my safety.
    Good point, and I wholeheartedly agree with you on this point.

    But, back to the point I was attempting to make about the fine line between opinions and fact: if he scared the crap out of you, and you write this in a report, then you are in a large sense actually just stating a fact (in other words, you have firsthand knowledge of how you felt, and there is no disputing that fact). However, if we went a step further in our articulation of that case, we could state an opinion that the subject's movement as he clenched his fist made you believe that he was about to punch you, or something to that effect.

    I'm glad that you mentioned this hypothetical situation, as I think it is a great example of a time when an officer's opinion is truly valuable in a report! Each of us has our own writing style, and each of our departments expects reports to be written in a slightly different manner. But, obviously there are still some cases where opinions are more valuable than others!

    Honestly, this thread can be a bit overbroad in scope, as we didn't really go very far in defining which type(s) of reports we were talking about. A "use of force" report would be written differently than a "burglary" report narrative, and both of these would be written in a different manner than the narrative for a "mental health hold" (in many cases).

  18. #18
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    From a big picture perspective, LEOs insert their opinions into reports every day. Therefore, I agree with the previous posts. As an example, your statement of reasonable articulable suspicion is ALWAYS an opinion. That is why the general public would not see anything abnormal in certain behavior but a LEO would be on alert and initiate a stop.

    From the legal analysis, opinions are generally admissible. Some opinions from non-experts are admissible. However, opinions of experts are nearly always admissible. An expert is generally defined as a person who, from their knowledge, training, skill and experience has more knowledge that the average juror. Ever write a radar ticket? If so, you expressed your expert opinion in a police report- a visual estimation of speed.

    There is no dispute that an opinion in a report will probably increase your time on the witness stand during cross examination. However, if your opinion is professional and based upon your knowledge, training, skill and experience, you will be fine as long as you explain the basis of that opinion.

    Stay safe.

  19. #19
    lewisipso's Avatar
    lewisipso is offline Injustice/Indifference/In God we trust
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    Excellent information sir. Thank you.
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  20. #20
    McCrackhd's Avatar
    McCrackhd is offline Master Officer
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    If you can articulate your opinion-and it's relevant-, then I see no problem with opinions in a report. The key is to stay professional.

 

 
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