Proof is in the review
We go to great lengths to train ourselves how to respond under stress, how to protect ourselves when attacked by suspects and how to protect them from harm when we take them into custody. When it is all over, we write it up. Our task is to accurately and clearly document what happened. Sound simple? To those of you that have been involved in a use of force case, you know it is not so simple.
First, there's the call to deal with the subject and your efforts to calmly defuse the situation. When that does not work, we find ourselves in the middle of a use of force situation. There is the struggle, the force, and finally the arrest and transport. When we are done, we are excited from the Adrenaline, drained from the struggle and dreading the paperwork.
Officer Murphy states: “Any incident that requires hours of paperwork will occur at the end of the shift.” We are often in a hurry to finish up and get off duty or on to the next call; no rest for the weary. This is where we can ruin the job we have worked so hard to do thus far. There is a tendency for us to write our report and file it with only a cursory review or no review at all. We often feel we are good report writers and if we are careful we will get it right the first time. Remember, when these reports are written we’re often tired and not at our best.
So, we knock it out, give it a quick once over and move on. Unfortunately, we have to explain our mistakes later, in court. For example, the officer that wrote in his report, “I saw a bulge in the suspect's pants that looked like a concealed iron."
Actually the officer intended to say “tire iron.” Instead of “tire iron” the officer wrote “iron.” Imagine the officer trying to explain in court why he thought the suspect had a concealed “iron” in his pants and, by the way, where is that “iron” anyway? This problem could have been avoided with a proper review of the report.
Before I share a few techniques for checking your report, I would like to test your ability to proof your work. The following is an exercise to see how well you see the material you are reading. Follow the instructions and see how well you perform.
Read the in the rectangle sentence below:
Now count the F's in the rectangle. Count them ONLY ONCE; do not go back and count them again. How many did you find?
There are six F's in the sentence, inside the rectangle. A reader of average intelligence finds three of them. If you spotted four, you're above average. If you found five, you can turn up your nose at most anybody. If you found six F's in the sentence, you are a genius. There is positively no catch.
Actually, there is no correlation to a person's intelligence and how many F's they can find in the above sentence. A study of 187 people revealed the following statistics:
If you did not find all of the F's, take a look at the two-letter word “of.” There are three of them. Most people, even when they are trying to look at each individual letter, tend to skip the F's in the word of. They look at “of” as one entity, not a combination of two letters “o” and “f.”
When we read, we skim or scan the words we are reading. We do not look at each individual letter. This process causes us to miss errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar and content. As you have probably noticed in your own work in the past, you tend to miss more of your own errors than those of other people. This is caused by your familiarity with the report.
The first step in reviewing your report is to allow a little time to pass before you conduct your review; the longer the time the better. However, even a few minutes during a water break is better than no time at all. Usually, 10 to 15 minutes is ideal. This is long enough to relax your mind and eyes, but not so long as to keep you from moving on to other tasks.
The next step is to break down your review into several parts, looking for different errors in each pass. I recommend three passes to conduct a thorough review of your own work:
1.) Check for completeness
Do not jeopardize the good work you’ve accomplished by getting in a hurry and leaving the job undone. Check you work.
Remember, the proof is in the review.
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