Field Notes and Reports
In criminal investigations, accurate information is essential to enable officers to resolve crimes (Alison, 2005). The accuracy required aids the investigating officers to file reports that are credible and fact-based. When a crime takes place, police officers who arrive at the scene of crime are mandated to collect as much information as possible before the crime scene is altered. This is to ensure that vital pieces of evidence are not destroyed. The investigating officer may not be able to commit all the information collected at a crime scene to memory. As such, note taking becomes the basis of his investigation, which aids in writing the final report concerning the crime.
The notes written by an officer in the field records several details concerning an investigation. The names of suspects, witnesses and other person who may have contributed to the crime are recorded in the notes. Moreover, the date, time, locations, weather conditions, interview results, addresses, phone numbers, investigative leads and sketches of the crime scene are recorded in the officer's notes.
Field notes by officers involved in investigating crime scenes can be used to gauge the professionalism and competence of the officers. Well written notes, based on facts and written in a chronological order can be indicators of competent officers. Therefore, an officer should ensure that the field notes are written in a clear and concise manner whereby any person reading the reports will need no clarification from the officer. The chronology of events is crucial in an investigation because it leads to informed conclusions about the relationship between events and people involved. Different officers may adopt different styles of writing notes depending on how comfortable they are with the styles. The notes should be as complete as possible because the officer who started the investigation may be required to hand over the case to another officer. The new officer needs deep understanding of the notes to proceed with the investigation. This understanding can only be achieved through reading complete and comprehensive notes. The notebook should be written without leaving spaces or blank pages because such spaces may indicate omission or alteration of evidence. If the notes are to be used as evidence in a court of law, the judges are skeptical of such spaces, which may render the notes inadmissible.
The importance of writing notes lies in their subsequent usage. Investigating a crime can take a while to conclude. When evidence related to a crime is required in court, a lot of time may have passed. The officer in charge of the investigation may have forgotten facts. In such cases, the notes serve to refresh the officer's memory about the facts of the crime (Weston, Lushbaugh and Wells, 2000). The notes are also used in the writing of reports and supplemental reports. Official reports of the investigation are required by investigation supervisors and other authorities for different purposes. These reports need to be comprehensive and clear. They detail all the facts and findings of an investigation. Since they are based on the officer's account, the notes may serve to strengthen the report with all the facts and conclusions without leaving out crucial details. In the case of supplemental reports, notes taken during the original report can be compared with those taken during the secondary investigations related to the case. Such comparison can reveal inconsistencies or additional information that can help resolve crimes.
In conclusion, note taking is crucial to an investigation because they assist in writing the final and supplemental reports. They refresh the investigating officer's memory and increase the admissibility of the officer's account as evidence in a court of law. For the notes to be admissible as evidence in a court of law, they should be written systematically, clearly and concisely.