How to Effectively Write Reports as a Security Officer
Security reports are referenced for several reasons and potentially by several people. Your supervisor might want a rundown of the events you encountered the night before, clients may want to know about incidents that affected their businesses, and law enforcement may need your report to help with an investigation. It’s vital that your report is well-written so all the facts are covered and there is no confusion that renders it useless.
The basic rules of report writing set the foundation for an effective report. Always write in first-person, organize your information in a chronological manner and aim to answer the five Ws and one H: who, what, when, where, why and how. Specificity is vital. If you are a mall security guard, for instance, and someone fell in the food court, jotting down the person’s name doesn’t satisfy the “who” question. It’s not specific enough. Instead, write down the person’s name, gender and physical description. Karen Hess, author of “Introduction to Private Security,” warns against writing down information that might be subjective. For instance, state a person’s age rather than write they look young or old.
Bring a notepad and pen with you wherever you go. When filling out a report, whether it’s a daily report summarizing the activities that occurred during your shift or an incident report, it’s impossible to remember all the details and situations you encountered. Note any observations you make and actions you take. Think of your notepad as a mini, informal report that includes the same details as your formal report. Feel free to use abbreviations and informal descriptions in your notes, as long as you understand them.
Always take a concise approach to your reports. Cut out useless information and long-winded sentences. Choose strong verbs and adjectives. Consider this sentence: “A male customer explained that he had chest pains.” You can shorten the sentence by replacing “Explained that he had” with “Complained of.” You get to the point quickly and convey the same message.
Keep to the facts and the facts only. Your report should contain no opinions or inferences. Opinions are easy enough to keep out, but inferences are a bit sneakier. For example, suppose two stores reported a theft. The suspect in both cases wore a hat and red shirt. It’s logical to assume that the same person may have robbed both stores, but that’s an inference, not a fact. The fact is the suspect in both incidents wore a hat and red shirt, nothing more.
Whether your reports sit in a file for all of eternity or they’re referenced by a magistrate for a criminal case, they need to exude professionalism. If you write your reports by hand, take your time and make sure your words are legible. Stay away from abbreviations — except the most common, such as “Mr.” and “Mrs.” — and text speak. Use proper punctuation and capitalization, and double-check everything you write for spelling and grammar mistakes.