Criminal Investigations Criminal Investigations Documenting the Scene Note Taking Photography

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Documenting the Scene: Note Taking,
    Photography and Sketching
            Chapter 2
Why notes are important in an
When to take notes?
What to record in investigative notes?
How to record the notes?
What the characteristics of effective
notes are?
     Objectives Cont.
Where to file notes if they are retained?
How notes are used in court and what
problems can arise?
What steps are involved in writing an
investigative report?
What types of investigative reports may
be required?
    Objectives Cont.
Why reports are important to an
How the narrative should be structured?
What the characteristics of effective
investigative reports are?
Most people who go into law
enforcement are amazed at the amount
of paperwork and writing that is
required. Paperwork can constitute up
to 70% of an investigator’s job; thus
typing and computer skills are essential.
           Field Notes
Note taking is not unique to the police
Investigative notes are a permanent written
record of the facts of a case to be used in
further investigation, in writing reports and in
prosecuting the case.
Accurate notes not only aid later recall but
also are used for preparing sketches and
  When to Take Notes
Start to take notes as soon as possible after
receiving a call to respond
Continue recording information as it is
received throughout the investigation
Most people are willing to give information if
you are friendly and courteous and you
explain the importance of the information
In such no delay in taking notes is required
Reluctant witnesses and suspects may not
talk if you record what they say
      What to Record
Record all facts, regardless of where they
may lead
Information establishing a suspect’s
innocence is as important as that establishing
The time and date of the call
The location
Officer assigned
Arrival time at the scene
 What to Record Cont.
Record all information that helps to answer
the questions:
Who: are suspects? Accomplices?
What: type of crime was committed?
When: did the incident happen?
Where: did the incident happen?
How: was the crime discovered?
Why: was the crime committed?
 What to Record Cont.
Complete descriptions would include the
following information: sex, race, coloring, age,
height, weight, hair, eyes
Make notes that describe the physical scene,
including weather and lighting conditions
Record everything you observe in the overall
The amount of notes taken depends on the
type of offense, the condition of the case,
your attitude and ability and the number of
other officers assigned to the case
Where to Record Notes
 Use a notebook to record all facts
  observed and learned during an
 Notebook remains one of the simplest,
  most economical and most basic
  investigative tools
 Divide the notebook into sections for easy
Where to Record Notes
One section might contain frequently
used telephone numbers
Opinions vary as to whether it is better
to use a spiral-bound or loose-leaf
Number, date, case number on each
page or use a separate notebook for
each case
   How to Take Notes
Note taking is an acquired skill
Write briefly, legible, abbreviated notes that
others can understand
Do not include words such as a, and, and the
in your notes
Write legible especially when recording
names, addresses, telephone numbers,
license numbers
Whenever possible use standard
abbreviations such as mph, DWI, Ave
Using a Tape Recorder
            Some police
            departments use tape
            recorders extensively
            because of the definite
            advantage of recording
            exactly what was stated
            with no danger of
            misinterpreting or
    Characteristics of
     Effective Notes
Effective notes are complete, accurate,
specific, factual, clear, well organized,
and legible
Record facts accurately
Be specific as possible
Notes are usually taken rapidly,
increasing chance of errors
          Filing Notes
Some officers destroy all their field notes after
they have written their reports
They believe that notes simply duplicate what
is in the report
If notes are retained, file them in a secure
location readily accessible to investigators
Store notes in an official police department
case file
No one filing is best
 Using Notes in Court
Properly introduced notes made by the
testifying officer can be used in a criminal
Officers may refer to their notes to refresh
their memories, but if they do so, the defense
counsel may examine them and read or show
them to the judge or jury
Officers should take to court only those that
pertain to the particular case
 Using Notes in Court
Best evidence in the legal sense is the
original, best and highest evidence; the
highest available degree of proof that can be
Difficulties can arise when original notes are
not used
If your notes are original, factual, and
accurate, you should have them with you, to
refer to them and to testify from them
They can help you to discredit evidence,
support evidence, strengthen the testimony
Steps in report writing
Gather the facts: investigate, interview,
Record the facts immediately: take notes
Organize the facts
Write the report
Evaluate the report: edit and proofread;
revise if necessary
    Types of Reports
Investigators usually complete an
Initial or preliminary report
Supplemental or progress reports
Closing or final report
Organizing Information
First make an informal outline
List facts of the investigation in
chronological order beginning with the
response to the call and concluding with
the end of the investigation
   Writing the Report:
Structuring the Narrative
Definition: is essentially a technical report
structured in chronological order describing a
sequence of investigative events
Usually the narrative is structured as follows:
The opening paragraph of a police report
states the time, date, type of incident and how
you became involved
Writing the Report Cont.
The next paragraph contains what you
were told by the victim or witness. For
each person talked to, use a separate
Next record what you did based on the
information you received
The final paragraph states the
disposition of the case
    Characteristics of
    Effective Reports
An effective report uses paragraphs, the
past tense, first person and active voice.
It is factual, accurate, objective,
complete, concise, clear, mechanically
correct, written in standard English,
legible and reader focused
Evaluating Your Report
Once you have written your report,
evaluate it
Ask yourself if the report is accurate,
factual, organized, objective, complete,
concise, clear, in past tense and active
voice, mechanically correct, written in
standard English and legible
 Taping and Dictating
Taping or dictating reports is common in
some departments
 Computerized Report
Computers have made significant
contributions to efficiency in report writing
Pen-based computers also make report
writing easier
Pen computing uses a special “pen” to write
on a computer screen
Another advance is Computer-Assisted
Report Entry (CARE)
 Computerized Report
    Writing Cont.
This live-entry system centers around
CARE operator who leads officers
through preformatted screens and
questions, allowing them to complete
reports in a matter of minutes
The End