Report Writing & Documentation

Written reports have existed since men and women were first able to read and write. Documents such as the Bible and the Koran have existed for thousands of years. These books are considered to contain detailed reports of mankind’s years on earth during the past 5,000 years. Because past events were recorded in writing, permanent records exist which allow generation after generation to learn the exact same information. The comment, “If it’s not written, it didn’t happen”, is of particular importance in the study of history.

For security personnel, written reports are used for several purposes:

  1. To provide a permanent record of an incident
  2. To verify the job duties performed
  3. To explain confusing events
  4. To provide evidence in a legal proceeding
  5. To provide information for follow-up action

Provided that security reports are clear, concise and accurate, a security department will maintain a high degree of credibility within an organization. Security logs and reports are subject to being used in court proceedings both civil and criminal. It is essential that security personnel factually record all information in their logs and reports which answer the following:

  • WHO?
  • WHAT?
  • WHEN?
  • WHERE?
  • WHY?
  • HOW?

Answering the above mentioned questions seems very simple but security officers will often fail to answer these basic questions. In fact, many times security officers fail to write reports or documents incidents. When information is not documented and a security officer must be called at home to answer a question, credibility of the officer and of the entire security operation is damaged.

The following guidelines are suggested to ensure that reports are written in an acceptable, professional manner.

  1. Document everything! If, as a security officer you have to pause and ask yourself if something should be written down, you have answered the question…WRITE IT IN YOUR LOG!
  2. Write clearly and neatly! Few adults possess penmanship skills which are neat and easy to read.
  3. Report all the facts! Don’t give your opinion. Simply state the facts. Remember the classic line from Sgt. Joe Friday of the television series Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma’am.”
  4. Protect the information contained in logs and reports! Never allow anyone to read information in a security log or report unless you know for certain they are permitted to do so by your superiors. Often, union officials or department managers may ask for a copy of a security log or incident report. A good rule of thumb, if you are unsure if they are permitted to review the information is to reply, “I’m sorry, but I can’t release that information. I will note on the report that you have requested a copy. If my supervisor grants permission to release the information, I will be happy to provide you a copy.”
  5. Know what information your supervisor wants included in security reports. Often, security officers include information in reports which is not necessary. Remember to keep things simple. The KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) approach is always preferred. In addition, conflict between security officers might result when one officer documents information in his/her report (such as finding a door open) which an officer on the preceding shift should have found. Know what your supervisor wants documented in reports. Don’t intentionally try to embarrass the preceding shift officers. Just state the facts!