Police documents are not simply filed away in cabinets after they being prepared. Rather, they are often referred to by journalists, comedians and even common citizens. If you have ever been arrested by the police, you are entitled to receive a copy of the police report regarding your arrest, although you may be required to pay a small fee.
Police reports related to high-profile incidents involving celebrities are frequently available to view online on specialized news sites such as The Smoking Gun or TMZ.com. These reports may be critiqued by reporters and members of the public, who are often interested in uncovering sensational details contained in the reports. When Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was arrested for disorderly conduct on July 16, 2009, a police report regarding his arrest was quickly made available online. By examining this report, citizens were able to draw conclusions about the controversial incident, which sparked allegations of racial profiling.
Because police reports were often written to document the activities of small communities, they were often more casual in nature than contemporary reports. They often contain characterizing details, such as an assertion that a subject is a "drunkard," and may contain only a sparse chronology regarding an incident leading to a subject's arrest.
Summaries of incidents that are later described in police reports are contained in police blotters, which are records kept by desk sergeants of daily activity. While information contained within these blotters should not be misconstrued as reports, they do contain information that mirrors the content of related police reports. Thus, by scanning such blotters, a person can discover the reasoning behind the arrest of a subject. Blotters are often posted in newspapers and may be freely accessed online.
Funny excerpts from police reports have been publicized on television segments such as Jay Leno's Headlines or in books such as The Darwin Awards. Some of these reports include information that is inadvertently humorous or it may be anecdotal and fabricated. Other reports contain detailed chronologies of events that, while potentially humorous to officers who prepared the report, are professionally reported.
Copies of Local Reports
Copies of police reports are obtainable from police departments, either by visiting stations or arranging to receive online copies. Since these reports contain sensitive information regarding a person's arrest, a person's motives for requesting a police report may be questioned by law enforcement officials. Most jurisdictions require the payment of a nominal fee in order to obtain a report, although such fees may vary from as low as a few cents to as high as several dollars.