As noted in a previous section, informational reports are often used by law enforcement to record information about an incident that does not yet appear to meet the elements of a criminal offense. When used effectively, informational reports can be an extremely valuable part of the protocol for implementing alternative reporting methods. However, our second recommendation is that officers and investigators should not be rushed into making a determination to record information in a crime report versus an informational report.
To understand this recommendation, it may be helpful to step back and describe the types of situations where informational reports are most commonly used by law enforcement.
- One use for informational reports is when citizens contact the police because they believe that a crime might have been committed. For example, an adult might report a situation where they felt pressured into having sexual contact with another person, but the coercion did not meet the criteria for a forcible sexual assault. Alternatively, citizens may want to provide information about an incident they know does not constitute a crime – but they believe it may be important for law enforcement to have the information. In the law enforcement community, this is often referred to as ‘intelligence,’ or information that may be valuable at some point even if it does not currently meet the elements of a crime.
- Informational reports are also used by law enforcement to record information on a suspicious individual or incident the officer wants to document – again, despite the fact that the information or incident does not currently meet the elements of a crime. They are similarly used when a crime is reported but it took place in another jurisdiction. The informational report would then be forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
- Another use for informational reports is when mandated reports are made by third or even fourth parties, and the victim denies the allegations or chooses not to participate in an interview or otherwise provide the information that would be needed to complete a crime report.
As long as agencies track every single report, and submit them for secondary review, informational reporting can be an important and extremely effective component of the law enforcement response to sexual assault being perpetrated within the community.