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EVAWI > Resources > Best Practices > FAQs > Reporting Methods
Q Can a victim request that an officer complete an informational report?
A Can a victim request that an officer complete an informational report?

When we use the term “informational report” at EVAWI, we are referring to a report completed by law enforcement to document an incident that does not meet the elements of a sexual assault offense. This type of report also goes by other names in different agencies (e.g., “incident report,” “officer’s report”). It is distinguished from a “crime report,” which documents an incident that meets the elements of a criminal offense (and also goes by a variety of names, including a “scored report” or “coded report”).

The question is then whether a victim can request an informational report, and this could potentially happen in several different situations. First, a victim may want an informational report to be written when the officer is NOT completing a crime report. Alternatively, a victim may want an informational report to be written INSTEAD OF the crime report being completed by an officer. To answer the question directly, however, it really isn’t the victim’s decision for what type of report the officer should complete. Rather, the decision will be made by the officer based on agency policy as well as the facts of the case and a determination of whether the legal elements of a crime are met. Agencies will have different policies about what they can do in this situation and how they will respond to the victim’s request -- as well as addressing the victims underlying questions, concerns, and expressed wishes.

When the officer is NOT completing a crime report. In the first situation, an officer has determined that the legal elements of a sexual assault offense are NOT present and is therefore not completing a crime report. In that situation, the victim could certainly request that an informational report be completed, in order to document the incident, and if it is consistent with agency policy it could certainly be appropriate for the officer to do so. Of course, this report would only be used for intelligence purposes rather than to launch an investigation. For example, the information could be helpful if the same suspect is named in another report in the future or if the information could help law enforcement identify a pattern of crimes. This type of informational reporting can be a “best practice” in this situation, as long as the agency has a realistic means for archiving the information and searching it.

When the officer IS completing a crime report. In the second situation, an officer has determined that the legal elements of a sexual assault offense ARE met and is therefore completing a crime report. If a victim requests that an informational report be conducted in that situation -- instead of the crime report -- some agency policies may allow this to be done, and it may be appropriate. However, other agencies may respond to this type of request in a different way. For example, agencies with protocols for anonymous reporting or blind reporting may recommend that victims use that process in this type of situation (and the anonymous/blind report might technically be an informational report). However, other agencies may respond by continuing with the crime report but seeking to address the victim’s underlying concerns and honoring the victim’s request to decline further investigation and prosecution.

In fact, the essence of this question may have less to do with the report form used by an officer and more to do with what happens next for the criminal justice process. In other words, can the victim have a say in whether or not the case is actively investigated and prosecution is pursued? These issues are even more complicated, and they are addressed in the following question. However, the short answer is that victims CANNOT make the decision regarding whether or not a report will be investigated and prosecuted – but they CAN make decisions about whether or not they will actively participate in the process – and this may realistically determine what happens with the investigation and prosecution.

For more information on the various reporting options available to law enforcement, please see the Reporting Options tab in the Forensic Compliance Resources section of the EVAWI website. There you will see a variety of resources, including a document defining concepts and terms for various reporting methods and an archived webinar on Alternative Reporting Methods.

When the officer is not taking any report. Of course, there is also a third type of situation that is arguably the most challenging -- when the officer is not writing any report at all because the he/she doesn’t believe the victim and doesn’t see the report as credible. In this situation, the best response is likely to contact the officer’s first level supervisor (generally a Sergeant) or a second level supervisor (generally a Lieutenant). Depending on their response, victims and their advocates can also typically make a complaint to Internal Affairs who could then launch an investigation if Department Policies and Procedures have been violated. Although some agencies allow their officers discretion in determining whether or not to write a report in this situation, we believe the best practice is to remove this discretion in the agency’s policy directives governing sexual assault investigations. This would be accomplished with a statement dictating that all reports of sexual assault will be documented with a written report, whether it is an informational report or crime report, and then reviewed by a supervisor.

For more information on this difficult topic, please see the best practice recommendations in our OnLine Training Institute module on False Reports as well as the advocacy strategies outlined in the module on Effective Victim Advocacy in the Criminal Justice System.

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