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William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.

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Never Settle for Just Good Enough

If your written work isn't up to your standards, step it up. Improve the quality.

September 20, 2011  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

How many times have you heard the old saw, "That's good enough for government work?" Does that mean shoddy or marginal work is acceptable? You'll have to ask yourself if that's what you want to be known for producing?

One thing I tell all young officers is that your work products — reports, evidence tickets, traffic citations and the like — are your trademark. You'll produce a product that will have several end users.

Detectives build their case on your preliminary report. Prosecutors decide whether to move forward with the case based on your report. Insurance companies, probation officers and others will use your work product to help them with their roles. Sooner or later a case will come up to the detectives and prosecutors, and they'll look to the officer to bring charges.

How do you want to be viewed by your criminal justice colleagues? You should desire to be known as the articulate officer with a keen attention to procedure and detail. You don't want the reputation of the sloppy dullard who just tries to get by with minimum effort. Make your mark here as a positive one.

Years ago, when I was a detective sergeant, I was tasked with assisting with detective applicant interviews. I would go to records management archives and make copies of the example reports for burglaries, assaults, traffic citations, and traffic accidents. I would make a copy of a daily activity report (DAR) for good measure.

Today, these could be generated at a workstation with spell check and grammar check. The dais would review the applicants' reports before we interviewed them. If you claimed to be an excellent report writer and premier preliminary investigator, the example reports would validate you.

Oftentimes the lackluster reports caused chagrin among the aspiring detectives. You never know who'll read a mundane report, and you never know what a well-written report will net you. Pay attention to the details; it will pay off in more ways than one.

You take pride in your job, uniform, and appearance. Why stop there? When you start in this profession—yes, I said profession—you're young, motivated, and full of desire to be the future's warrior. As the shifts drag on, you can feel mundane at times and start to slack off. Don't do it; it's a contagious disease. The malady of mediocrity will creep in and you'll be a slacker as well. Don't let your trademark slide and become an inferior product.

Do it correctly the first time and give it all you've got—you often won't know when the smallest things will pay off. I'd bet a few aspiring detectives who didn't make it wish they'd had this tip. Be the detective they never were; you now have an inside track.

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