Often, new security personnel, or volunteers, find the premise of writing a security report to be intimidating.
However, a well written, easily read and factual security report is often crucial, and with the following tips and practice is not difficult to write correctly.
A report can help with any legal proceedings, to serve as a training opportunity and to track incidents in a church. In addition, good reporting is a strong a benchmark of a professional Church Protection Team (CPT).
WHEN IS A SECURITY REPORT NEEDED?
A security report is a formal account of anything unusual that happens on church grounds. Psalm 144 Church Protection Seminars suggests a security report is written for any incident of any kind, regardless of how seemingly small or insignificant. Sometimes a small detail can help to see the larger situation; so, a report should never be taken lightly. The following highlights this concept:
While in the police academy, the assistant director told the following story, "Class, a few months ago, a local elderly lady reported the theft of a gazing ball from her front yard. You know, those decorative yard ornaments you see sometimes, they are usually valued around $20 to $30. She could only say it had been stolen sometime in the last week, she had no idea when and could only say it was blue and she thought she bought it from Wal-Mart. Do you think she wasted the police department's time by filing a report on this theft?"
Immediately, a recruit shot his hand up and said, "Of course she did. There is no way that thing can be tracked down, and officers have better things to do than mess with a dumb report like that."
The assistant director then said, "Well…a rookie cop fresh out the academy saw things differently. He decided to do some old fashioned police work and started knocking on doors. Within a couple of hours, based on reports and tips from neighbors, they were pretty sure they knew who did it. The believed it to be a teenager who was rumored to be working with some heavy hitters the department had been looking at. As a result of a knock and talk at the suspect's house, they found a garage filled up with numerous stolen items.
This led to a deeper investigation. It turns out, this teen was acting as a runner for a three-state organized crime ring, specializing in stealing cars and chop shops. This guy had just been doing a little freelancing…including stealing the old ladies' gazing ball. As a result of her dumb report, several felony arrests were made and this multi-state organized ring was broken up."
This is exactly why a report should be made on any unusual situation or incident. From finding a door unlocked or propped open, to a minor medical issue all the way to the use of force on a belligerent subject; a report should always be made.
WHAT DOES A SECURITY REPORT ENTAIL?
A proper report will unfold like a short story, with relevant details, the characters, the setting and the incident or incidents that warranted the report. It is recommended that the CPT member re-read the report and ensure that it would give a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the incident to anyone who reads it, regardless if they were familiar with the incident prior to reading it.
A poorly written report will commonly have the following mistakes:
- Disorganized thoughts.
- Lack of detail.
- Subjective writing, to include the officer's opinions.
- Lack of information regarding the subjects involved.
- Grammatical and mechanical errors.
Well written reports will:
- Have a clear and well-organized theme.
- Contain all the needed details and facts.
- Be factual and objective.
- Contain proper grammar and mechanics.
- Give a thorough understanding of the incident to anyone unfamiliar with the situation.
If the new CPT member simply follows the formula of: who, what, when and where while keeping the idea of writing a fact-based story, the report should be acceptable.
Begin with, "On (insert date) at approximately (insert time) I was (dispatched/observed/approached) and fill in all the details to tell the story. Plain English should be used. That is, the CPT member should not try to use police jargon or formal sounding terms.
It is recommended that the report conclude with any needed suggestions for improvements based on the incident, followed by: Nothing further at this time.
CPT members should carry a small notepad and pen to take notes immediately after an incident. These notes are invaluable when writing the report. A phone may be used to take notes, however, be aware, this can also give the look of "playing on the phone," this is why 144 trained CPT members are advised to use a pen and notepad.
The director of the Church Protection Team should have a dedicated email for use by the other CPT members. The reporting CPT member can use this email to submit the report. It is strongly recommended that the reporting CPT member write the report before leaving the church while details are fresh. If that is not possible, it should be written as soon as possible, and certainly within twenty-four hours.
The director should have a dedicated digital file and also printed copies that are kept in a report binder, which should kept in a secured area. As noted, reports may be useful in the event of a court case, to identifying patterns of suspicious behavior or activity.
The binder should only be viewed by approved personal as it may contain sensitive information.