What’s Hiding in the Text? Analyzing Sexual Assault Police Report Narratives for “Signaling”

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60 Minutes

Originally Aired
April 13 2023

Rachel Lovell
Rachel Lovell, PhD
Assistant Professor of Criminology, Cleveland State University
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Joanna Klingenstein, MA
Research Associate, Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education

After years of reading sexual assault police reports through the Bureau of Justice Assistance-funded Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, Dr. Lovell and her research team observed a pattern. It seemed that police reports containing little investigative work or statements about a victim’s credibility were also the cases that stopped short of prosecutorial action. In 2019, Dr. Lovell received a National Institute of Justice grant to investigate the content of these police reports further by using creative technological methods such as machine learning and sentiment analysis to analyze police report narratives. In this presentation, we discuss what we have learned about what the computer can teach us about how to write better rape reports and what this means for law enforcement moving forward. Specifically, the presenters will discuss the important but often overlooked aspect of reporting writing, share information on barriers to analyzing police reports, how the information from this research project can be leveraged to transform policies and practices in police report writing, and key research findings from this project.


As a result of this webinar, participants will be better able to:

  • Describe reasons why narrative text in police reports is an important but also a dreaded task for officers.
  • Identify barriers in police report writing, particularly for sexual assault survivors.
  • Describe ways to analyze textual data for both research and practice.
  • Recognize ways that practices around report writing within the criminal justice system can improve victim response.
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