If you've ever dialed 911, called a police department to file a complaint or spoke to an officer, most likely there is a record of it. Police officers must document every call to which they are dispatched. These incident reports are commonly called police reports.
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In addition to incident reports, other types of reports include accident reports written after a car crash and supplemental reports from any follow-up investigations.
Although each police department uses its own style of report, the records contain the same information--the officer's name and badge number, the time and location of the call, the complainant's personal information, the type of complaint, and a narrative.
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The narrative is a summary written by the police officer who responded to the call and should be as detailed as possible, especially if a crime has been committed.
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Paper records are often discarded after several years, but police records on computers can be kept indefinitely using records management software.
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Although police reports are considered public documents, access to the reports can be restricted if the incident is under investigation or if a juvenile is involved.
There might be a fee to obtain a copy of a police report from the police department records office.