Incident-based reporting—The foundation of effective police operations and management (Technology Talk column)
Law enforcement recordkeeping practices are critical tools in effective operations and management. From the earliest days of organized policing, officers have written incident reports that capture details regarding crimes, victims, offenders, suspects, locations, and the nature of injuries and losses. Incident reports provide the foundation for ongoing investigations and prosecutions, and supplemental reports (e.g., victim and witness statements, investigative notes, and evidence inventories) often contribute to the incident’s case file.1 In addition to individual incident reports and case files, police agencies have also maintained police registers or blotters, which typically provide summary details of reported incidents throughout their jurisdictions. Available to the press and the public, the police blotter provides a chronological record of incidents and police activities within a jurisdiction.
The raw data that are the natural product of law enforcement operations at state and local levels (e.g., incident reports, arrest reports, and field interviews) are the fundamental currency that drives case processing from investigation through prosecution and adjudication. Moreover, incident reports provide law enforcement administrators with crucial information to understand the nature of crime and criminality within their communities, as well as guide strategic planning and tactical deployment of increasingly scarce resources.