The stupid dirt bag got all up in my face when I told him he was under arrest.  I grabbed
the ass hole and he bowed up on me.  He started acting like a maniac.  So, I took his
feet out from under him and slam dunked his ass to the pavement.  When I wrenched his
arms around and cuffed him; he quit kicking and lay as still as a road kill opossum.

This is a very colorful description of an arrest; one you may have heard in the coffee
locker after work or one you yourself have told on occasion.  It makes for good
entertainment and evokes the imagination when it's heard.  I think we can all agree, that
this rendition of an arrest, does not go on a police report.  It is vague, ambiguous and
wide open for interpretation.

The same event could be described in an official, collegiate version as follows:

The reporting officer proceeded to effectuate an arrest to incarcerate the listed
perpetrator.  The listed perpetrator became verbally abusive towards this officer,
verbally enunciating negative expletives, denouncing the countenance of this officer's
chosen profession.  As the arresting officer proceeded to physically manipulate the
perpetrator into a position conducive for the application of the arresting officer's issued,
smith and wesson handcuffs, the perpetrator became physically resistive to the arresting
officers cuffing procedure.  The arresting officer clearly and loudly articulated directions
for the uncooperative perpetrator to comply .  The arresting officer advised the
perpetrator of the negative consequences that will be brought about by resistance on
the part of the perpetrator.  The arresting officer was forced to resort to a take down
maneuver, effectuated against the perpetrator.  The perpetrator was subsequently
placed in a horizontal position and subjected to a cuffing procedure, to restrain him, for
the purpose of arrest and incarceration.

Now this official version of an arrest is at least 3 times longer than the coffee locker
version.  It is vague, ambiguous and leaves a lot of room for interpretation.  It is also
hard to understand.

What happened?  Often times we are trying to impress people with our "creative" writing
skill, instead of telling them what happened.  In the process, we fail to actually say what
happened.  When you write a report, there should be no room for interpretation.  The
reader of your report should have a crystal clear picture in their mind, of what happened,
when they finish reading your report.  If the reader has questions about what happened,
you have failed to effectively communicate.

Here is a clear version of the same report.

I told Smith he was under arrest.  He said "Screw you pig! You ain't taken me no place!"  
I used my left hand to grab his left elbow and my right hand to grab his right wrist.  Smith
flexed his body and pulled away from me.  I yelled "don't resist." and "get down." several
times.  Smith did not comply and continued to try and pull away.  I struck Smith on the
common peroneal of his right leg with my right knee.  I used my left leg to sweep his
feet.  I guided Smith to the ground, as I repeatedly yelled " get down, don't resist."  When
he was on the ground, I pulled Smith over on his stomach and handcuffed his arms
behind his back.  Smith was not injured.

This version is ½ the length of the "official, collegiate" version and about twice as long as
the coffee locker version.  It is clear, unambiguous and leaves little room for
misinterpretation.  When a person finishes reading it, there should not be any questions
about what happened.

What do we want in a use of force report and how do we make it clear?  This is the
information that is needed in the report:
COFFEE, COLLEGIATE OR CLEAR,  
WHICH IS BEST?
by John Bowden
1.        We want to know all of  the suspect's actions and words.  We don't want a
watered down version or a hazy memory later on.

2.        We want to clearly articulate what the officer did.  What part of the body was hit
with what blow on the part of the officer or which weapon was used.  

3.        We want to know everything that was said by the officer.

4.        We want to know specifically what techniques were used by the officer.

5.        We want to know if there were any injuries to the perpetrator or the officer and
how serious they are.

How do we make it clear?  That issue would take more room than is available here and
will be discussed at length in future articles.  However, I have here some pointers that
will help.

1.        Use the first person.  "I" is clearer and easier to use than "the below listed
officer", "The undersigned", or "The arresting officer."  It is also how we normally
talk, making it easier to understand.

2.        Use the names of others in your report instead of "victim 1,2,3...", "witness
1,2,3..." or "perpetrator, arrestee, subject, etc."  We are accustomed to using the
names of people in every day conversation.  It also helps the reader to learn who
did what.

3.        Use simple straight forward sentences.  The more complex the sentences, the
more difficult for the average reader to understand.

4.        Use simple words.  They are easier to understand and usually clearer than
complex words.



5.        Use quotes.  If you quote exactly what is said, there will be no room for     
misinterpretation.

Example:    Johnson said "I'm going to kill you."

Instead of "Johnson threatened his life."

The reader won't have to ask how his life was threatened.

6.        State exactly what happened. "I hit the arrestee on the brachial plexus origin with
my right forearm."

As opposed to: "I struck the arrestee with an approved blow."

7.        Review your report.  Have someone else read your report.  If they have to ask
you to clarify what you wrote or ask questions about what happened, your report
is not clear.

These are just a few pointers to get you started to writing a better report.   

We must realize the most shocking and intrusive thing a police officer can do, is to take
away a person's freedom, while using force in the process.  We must make sure, when
we have finished the report, there is no doubt about what occurred and why we did it.  
Remember, you may live by the sword, but you are judged by the pen.  Make sure you
write it right