Friday, April 10, 2015

Write Away: I is for Incident Reports, Indictable Offenses, and Investigate

Today I bring you two related words and one not connected, but because, for this challenge, I chose to present terms alphabetically, these are backward. In real life, there is an investigation and then an incident report is filed. The middle term, indictable offense, is presented to further clarify the judiciary system.

The plethora of crime shows on TV share at least one common element. Law enforcement officers must file “paperwork” on cases they encountered, and they universally hate the requirement. Incident Reports, if TV is to be believed, are the least favorite part of the job. As citizens, we expect the paperwork on our heisted TV so we can file it with the insurance claim.

Because of the time involved, incident reports are typically only filed when a crime occurs. So if an officer doesn’t document (write an incident report) the time your house was egged, cut some slack.

For more serious crimes, the officer’s recall of which pocket the drugs were found in is sometimes one of those details, that when challenged, compromises the investigation and can result in dismissal of a case. Imagine after a full day on the streets, looking back over notes made at the time (sometimes a hectic or dangerous time) to fill out the detail in an incident report expected for a case to march toward prosecution. Human nature is you take your best guess as you search your memory.

Plantinga, in his 2014 book, 400 Things Cops Know, says that maybe for that reason, the majority of time drugs are listed as being in the right front pocket. Most people are right handed; right pocket makes the most sense. I am not implying that officers lie or provide false information. Rather, Plantinga says details like that can be one of the falls-through-the-cracks things in the heat of filing a lot of incident reports when one is tired and overworked. Filing incident reports also accounts for a substantial piece of a department’s overtime budget.

Typically filing incident reports takes hours. Plantinga lists the following as part of the paperwork: incident report, clearance report, inventory forms, District Attorney sheets, arrest report, prisoner statement, and supplemental witness interview reports. Reports are signed by the lieutenant, copied, stapled, and routed to the appropriate departments. Some reports require different quantities or paper colors. For example, the arrest report needs six copies with different numbers going to different agencies. Additionally, for other parts of the report, sometimes you can copy two-sided, but others are to be one-sided only. Some copies are to be collated. Some stamped. There’s more. I’m sure most police officers didn’t sign on because they love doing paperwork. Incident reports are an essential but tedious part of the job.

Is it any wonder that TV law enforcement teams bargain over who has to file the paperwork for an incident report?

Indictable Offenses are the most serious of crimes. Examples of indictable offences are murder, manslaughter, robbery, burglary, grand theft, assault, arson, conspiracy, rape, and kidnapping. To indict is to formally accuse or charge someone with a serious crime. That presentation is to a grand jury for a preliminary hearing to determine if the evidence is sufficient to go to trial.

Some states do not categorize crimes as felonies or misdemeanors but as indictable or not. Check the language and definitions for your setting when describing prosecution for the crime in your book.

Investigate comes from Latin for “track or trace out”. An investigation is a systematic or formal study or inquiry to determine, examine, and make sense of incident facts. The point of the investigation is to determine the truth of a situation.

Investigations include finding out about the relevant people involved in the crime or connected to victims of the crime. Investigations inquire about their characters, activities, and background. Investigations uncover new facts or provide interpretations of previously known facts as pieces fit together or patterns form.

Pieces of information discovered in an investigation will turn up in the incident report for the crime to document the process. The suspect’s legal team, as well as the prosecutorial team, rely upon the accuracy and completeness of the investigation and subsequent incident report.
In one of your books, you may well compromise one or both of these elements in order to complicate your plot.

Read on for part 9 of “The List”. Mort has some surprises for her.

            Inspecting the chair for seagull guano before she sat, she stood for a moment sipping her wine. Putting the glass down, she lowered her Nancy Reagan-esque frame into the lounger, covering herself head to toe with an afghan so not an inch of skin was exposed to the shimmering afternoon sun. Her large sunglasses shielded her eyes while also concealing the windows to her soul from the world. Beside the ice-filled wine bucket was a small jewelry case. Another one of Mort’s little presents, she supposed. She had been getting them for a couple of days. She wondered what he was up to. Why he felt guilty. She did like presents, however, so she eagerly creaked the hinged lid open. Two keys?


  1. Oh, the red tape of it all!! So glad I found your blog (after you found mine); I'll check in again tomorrow. :)

    1. Thanks, Diane, for coming by. Yep, you gotta feel for officers who just want to catch bad guys. But without the right paperwork, the bad guys can win. What a conundrum.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks so much for coming by to read and comment. This series challenge is a really fun one to do. Do you write mysteries or crime fiction? I hope you rummaged around to see what else I've covered. Please come again.

  3. Thanks for visiting my blog "A Bench with a View" and your comment :) I think it would be fascinating to be investigating and writing incident reports and other investigative reports!


    1. Hey, Betty! Good to see you here. I did enjoy your challenge theme as well. Please come again. it's fun to meet new readers here.