Writing Police Reports: Emergency!

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Language Arts, Reading, Reading Comprehension, Writing, Writing Process

Grade 5- 8


Students practice writing historical reports such as are done by emergency medical technicians and police officers.



  1. If possible, arrange for a visit by a police officer and/or emergency medical technician to speak to students about writing reports in their jobs. An alternative is to arrange a field trip to a police station, fire station, (most now have paramedics on staff), or ambulance company. Students think of these jobs as having glamour and do not realize that one of their most important responsibilities is writing reports.
  1. Inform students they are going to learn a new kind of writing called historical writing--not because it's about an event like the Civil War or the Industrial Revolution, but because it is written to record what is happening right now but will be history once it is over. Tell them historical writing seems easy. They don't have to develop characters or write proper paragraphs with topic sentences as they do in writing fiction or essays. They do have to write in detail and with accuracy, recording exactly what is happening, or has happened, in a situation. It is the kind of writing done by doctors, nurses, firefighters, paramedics, and police officers.
  2. Arrange for a visit from police officers or emergency medical technicians (optional but desirable), or a field trip to the paramedics of a fire station or a police station to visit with professionals for whom writing reports is a daily necessity.
  3. To practice writing a chronological summary such as one a police officer must write, dictate the following fictional account of an incident which students are to record in a one-paragraph summary.

  4. Jennifer Cortez was waiting in line in a convenience store when an armed gunman ran into the store and pushed a gun in the face of the clerk. "Give me all the money in your cash register right now!" he shouted. Still watching the clerk, he turned to the four people standing in line and shouted, "Turn your faces around to the back of the store and put your hands up!" Jennifer was standing in line to pay for a soda and was startled. The gunman wore a ski mask, a black sweatshirt, jeans, and dark glasses. Jennifer began to cry because she was so scared. "Count to 10 before you turn around!" the gunman said, collecting the money; then he backed out the door and ran around the side of the building. The clerk called the police.

    Have students fill out the Crime Report (page 81) and write a one-paragraph summary of the incident with the information given. In the paragraph, write only the necessary facts and write them in the exact order in which they happened. Will you need to write that Jennifer cried? No. Will you need to write that the gunman wore a mask? Yes. Discuss any problems or questions the students have.
  5. Display the Prehospital Care Report (page 82). Explain that this is the kind of report a paramedic must fill out for every patient. Note that information on this form consists of medical data with a detailed description of the patient's physical condition, including injuries and data regarding the patient's allergies and medical history. "Chief complaint" would be the reason a paramedic was called. Instead of a summary such as a police officer writes, a paramedic lists events and the times when they occur. Time is given in military time--that is, in number of hours since 12:00 midnight. In military time two P.M. would be 14:00 hours. On this particular report we have the following:
23:20 Arrived on scene--assessed pt. (patient)
23:25 Extricated from car with spine precautions
23:26 Vital signs taken (blood pressure, pulse rate, respiration)

  1. Read the Emergency Incident (page 84) to students. They are going to write crime reports and prehospital care reports for this incident. Divide the class into cooperative learning groups. Distribute to each group a blank crime report (page 81), a blank Prehospital Care Report (page 83), and a copy of the Emergency Incident (page 84). Elicit from students that this incident is a crime because the driver of the car left the scene of the accident, which is hit and run--a crime. Instruct each group to assign one person as recorder for the group, and to choose this person carefully because the report must be very neat. When the activity is complete, discuss the student's results. This activity may be repeated as often as needed until students are competent report writers.
It is said that over 90 percent of police recruits who do not make it onto the force fail because they are unable to write clear and accurate reports. The same is true for paramedics, nurses, and doctors. Clear, accurate reports are essential for success in any of these fields.


  • copies of activity pages 81, 82, 83, and 84
  • pencils

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