Explaining police reports

By Jedidiah McKeehan

Police work is often glamorized and over-dramatized in tv shows and movies.  The police are often in car chases, conducting these really intense interrogations, or using big white boards to connect the dots of how a crime syndicate works.

While some of that goes on, not much of it goes on.  If you asked a police officer, “how many times have you pulled out your gun and pointed it at a bad guy in the last year?”  The odds are high that the number is less than 5, and the number might be 0.  Which is a good thing!  If the officers are having to threaten deadly force that often, they are operating in a very, very unsafe place.

Lots of the work that police officers do is paperwork.  Mind-numbing paperwork.  This paperwork can be very important though.  The paperwork the police do most often are police reports.  Police reports do not necessarily mean that a crime was committed.  They are simply a record of an individual reporting that something occurred and they deemed it worthy of reporting that event to the police.

The most commonly used type of police report is the report, or often called the accident report, from a wreck.  In that report the officer who responds to the wreck will take down a bunch of different information about the drivers, and then try to re-create how the accident occurred with a little drawing that is part of the police report.  This report is important for determining liability and contacting parties.  However, that may be the last use of that police report.

A police report does not mean that there will be an investigation.  Unless someone was drunk or someone was killed in the accident, then there probably will not be an investigation.  Further, the police report is inadmissible evidence at court.  It contains hearsay evidence that cannot be introduced.

You may think, how does a police report not trigger an investigation or an arrest?  I have personally seen a police report filled out reporting a rape and the victim who filled out the report never received a call from a detective or anyone else.  As far as the victim knew, the police never did anything with the report.

So while a police report may create a written record of what a victim believes to be a crime, there is no guarantee that the generation of that report will result in anyone’s arrest, or even an investigation in to whether a crime occurred.

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.

 

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