601 – Reports

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I.             Purpose

Completing reports is a vital function of working at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) for most employees.  A guiding principle relating to reporting is, “if it is not written down, it did not happen.”  This is not only important for documenting crimes, but also for employees to justify their actions in litigation arising from their duties.  This policy provides directives on different types of reports.

II.           Policy

Employees must complete a report whenever one is requested by a member of the public or any time an incident should be documented for archival or legal purposes. If there are doubts about whether a report must be completed, a supervisor should be contacted for final determination.

Reports must be completed before the end of an employee’s shift, except where otherwise authorized by this policy and the Department Manual. Reports may be delayed up to 48 hours with a supervisor’s approval. The reason for the delay, and the name and unit number of the authorizing supervisor will be included in the offense report.  This includes the law report generated for a crash.  If a report is denied by a supervisor, employees must make the requested corrections and resubmit the report. This should be done with the same diligence as completing a new report.  For instance, an employee who arrives for their shift to find a report waiting for corrections should resubmit that report before the end of their shift, or as a supervisor directs.

III.          Incident Reports

Incident reports are narratives explaining the factual chronology of events while answering who, what, where, when, why, and how. If an employee is involved in an incident by conducting an investigation, responding to a scene, or observing a criminal act, an incident report is generally required.  Incident reports are the basis for the operational memory of the HCSO.

The writer should consult policies governing specific types of investigations as well as address the reporting needs of any other bureau that will be tasked with the investigation of the case. Any questions should be referred to the writer’s supervisor or an investigator or supervisor in the bureau the case will be referred to for disposition.  Detention personnel will complete reports using the Offender Management System as directed by their SOPs or for non-law enforcement investigations or matters.

A.           Reportable Incidents

1.            Situations which must be documented in an incident report include:

a.            Arrests,

b.            Uses of force,

c.            Any criminal incident,

d.            Any situation requiring further investigation,

e.            Any incident involving a mental health component,

f.            Non-criminal activity which may later escalate into criminal activity or civil litigation, and

g.            Any other situation, which may need to be documented, in which the facts could later be disputed.

2.            An incident report should typically have: a scene summary, a narrative, and a conclusion.

B.           Scene Summary

Incident reports must include a scene summary.

1.            A scene summary describes the location of the offense, type of premise, vehicle information if applicable, and location of any evidence.

2.            It should explain how the objects on scene, like a vehicle or evidence, relate to the offense being investigated.

C.           Narrative

Incident reports must have a detailed narrative.

1.            The narrative must introduce subjects involved by role and full name – e.g. “the suspect John Doe.”

2.            Subjects can be addressed by last name or role after being introduced.

3.            Explain what happened, what was said, who was spoken to, what actions were taken, and any other relevant information. The perceptions of the writer that made them decide to take or not take actions should also be included.  This is particularly important if force is used.  The writer’s education and experience will be factors in this and should also be explained.  Details are very important, including explaining the writer’s or department’s interest and involvement in the incident.

4.            Document the precise or approximate date and time of events, if possible.

5.            An incident report will serve as a legal record and may be read by attorneys, judges, news media, and the public. With that in mind, it must be precise and professional. The writer of the report was present at the investigation, while the readers of the report later almost certainly will not have been.  It is up to the writer to provide a sufficient level of detail and explanation to allow those who were not there to understand fully what occurred.

D.           Conclusion

The conclusion should describe the disposition of events described in the narrative. Was someone arrested? Was a vehicle towed? Were charges accepted or declined by the district attorney? This is not an all-inclusive list of questions to answer, but a few common outcomes to consider.

IV.          Accident Reports

Employees who respond to a vehicle crash must complete an accident report in accordance with the Texas Transportation Code, as well as a Law Report.

NOTE: Law Reports for vehicle accidents do not need a narrative unless an explanation for late submission is required (see Policy). See below for more information on Law Reports.

V.           Mobile Field Reporting (MFR)

MFR is a program allowing employees to complete and manage incident reports. It is primarily used by employees assigned to law enforcement duties outside of the jail system and is used for the documentation of any official incident, action required of, or action taken by HCSO personnel that is not specifically to be documented in another type of report or process.  MFR will also be used for criminal investigations. One or several different types of MFR reports may be required depending on the incident.

A.           Law Report

Law Report is a sub-program in MFR which constitutes the basic HCSO non- traffic incident report system.  Employees must also use Law Report to submit basic details regarding accident reports, in case the accident report is later lost or deleted.

1.            The Law Report form has options for employees to input information regarding involved persons, vehicles, property, and more. Employees must complete as much of this form as possible.

2.            Checkboxes in Law Report should be selected if they relate to the nature of the report. For example, check the CIT box if the report involved mental health.

3.            In addition to the incident report, a Law Report requires a brief synopsis of the incident. This synopsis must not contain any personal identifying information because it may be released to the public.

4.            Employees must assign the case to themselves if no further investigation is needed, such as if no crime were committed, and close the case.

5.            The initial reporting deputy of a case must not close any case involving:

a.            Sex crimes,

b.            Child abuse,

c.            Family violence,

d.            Robbery or aggravated assault,

e.            Information on suspects still at large,

f.            Follow up investigative information, or

g.            A scene where an investigator responded.

The investigator who is assigned to the case will close the case in compliance with the SOPs of their bureau, other applicable department policies, and the orders of their supervisors.

B.           Supplement Reports

A supplement report is an addition to an incident report. A supplement report must be completed for any incident in which there is already an existing incident report, and there is no new offense.

1.            Employees are able to submit supplement reports in MFR to Law Reports generated by most Harris County agencies.

2.            If an employee is unable to submit a supplement report for any reason, an incident report must be completed instead. Reference the supplement report case number in the new report.

C.           Arrest Reports

Employees must complete an Arrest Report in MFR whenever an arrest is made. This applies in addition to any other reporting requirements, meaning an Arrest Report is always accompanied by an incident or supplement report.

D.           Citations

MFR’s citation form allows employees to issue either a warning or a citation for Class C misdemeanors.  See Patrol SOP # 404—Traffic Citations.

E.            Racial Profiling Form

A racial profiling form must be completed for every traffic stop. See Policy #508 – Bias-Based Profiling.

NOTE: The racial profiling form is included in the citation form in MFR.

F.            Property & Evidence Form

A property and evidence form, labeled “P&E Collection” in MFR, must be completed for every item submitted as property or evidence.

G.           Towing

An MFR electronic tow entry must be completed any time a vehicle is towed from an HCSO scene.

See Policy #619 – Towing.

H.           Call Notes

Certain calls for service, such as a loud noise disturbance, may not require an incident report. Whenever an incident report is not required, information should be documented in the call notes.

If call notes span several pages, complete an incident report instead.

I.  Message Center Notifications

The EDC Message Center will be notified in the event an employee tows, recovers, or takes a report of the following items being stolen, if there are sufficient identifiers to permit Message Center entry or removal:

1.  Motor vehicles

2.  Boats

3.  Trailers

4.  Vehicle or Boat parts

5.  License Plates

6.  Heavy equipment (ie. Construction equipment)

7.  Firearms

In addition, a motor vehicle, boat, or trailer reported to have been used in a felony, or any firearm that is reported lost or used in a felony, will be reported to the Message Center.

VI.          Attachments

Physical documents acquired in the course of investigation, like notes, forms, and worksheets, must be attached to the related incident report.

A.           Employees should reference included attachments in the report. This establishes a record of the attachment in case it is lost.

B.           Attachments should be uploaded in MFR. If for any reason that is not possible, they should be submitted as evidence.

VII.         Administrative Reports

A bureau may generate administrative reports as required, such as for statistical purposes. These reports will be governed by the bureau’s standard operating procedures (SOP).

VIII.        Supervisor Responsibilities

A.           Supervisors must review and approve or deny reports.

B.           If a supervisor denies a report, they should provide a reason for the denial.

C.           Supervisors are responsible for managing submitted reports and ensuring those reports are correctly categorized.

1.            Supervisors must:

a.            Ensure reports are free of spelling and grammatical errors;

b.            Ensure reports have the essential details and structure, such as a scene summary and suspect description if applicable;

c.            Ensure reports are approved, or denied if corrections need to be made, in a timely manner to prevent delay in any investigation;

d.            Ensure approved reports are disseminated to the appropriate investigative unit or other personnel; and

e.            Ensure outstanding reports are completed.

D.           Missing Reports

Watch commanders and sergeants should see that personnel in their spans of control are checked daily during each shift for missing reports and notify the affected personnel of their responsibility to complete the reports.

NOTE: A tutorial to check for missing reports is available on the intranet.

E.            Blue Team

The Blue Team reporting software is used by supervisors to document incidents which require administrative review, such as pursuits and uses of force.

1.            A Blue Team report must be submitted by the end of a supervisor’s shift when it is required, unless otherwise authorized by the Department Manual.

2.  The following definitions apply under Blue Team “Reason of Use of Force” for the listed terms:

a.            Active Aggression: The subject poses a risk of immediate danger to the employee, another person, or themselves through punching, kicking, striking, or any other action when apparent that the subject has the immediate means to injure an employee, subject, or another person.

b.            Assaulting Citizen: The subject intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes or attempts to cause bodily injury to a citizen.

c.            Assaulting Officer: The subject intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes or attempts to cause bodily injury to a peace officer or detention officer of the HCSO.

d.            Combative Subject: The subject intentionally or knowingly threatens another with bodily injury or definable harm by verbal declaration, physical action, or a refusal to obey the lawful orders of an HCSO employee. This can include when an employee is exercising a lawful duty towards or concerning them or in retaliation for or on account of an HCSO employee’s lawful duties or actions.  A subject whose observed or documented behavior, words, or actions that would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily injury or definable harm if they were to contact them physically will also be considered a combative subject.

e.            Damage to Property: The subject intentionally or knowingly damages property of another, and this is the cause of the HCSO employee’s Blue Team actions.

f.            Evading/Escape: A subject intentionally flees from an HCSO employee attempting lawfully to arrest or detain him or escape from custody after being lawfully arrested or detained.

g.            Mental Health Crisis: The subject engages in unlawful behavior or are a danger to themselves or others due to what reasonably appears to be a documented or possible mental illness or impairment.

h.            Resisting Arrest: The subject intentionally prevents or obstructs a person he knows is a peace officer or a person acting in a peace officer’s presence and at his direction from effecting an arrest, search, or transportation of the actor or another by using force against the peace officer or another.

IX.          Retention Period

Retention periods for reports will be governed by applicable law, and the Harris County Records Control Schedule.

A.           Incident Reports

1.            Incident Reports:

a.            As a default rule, must be maintained indefinitely.

b.            May be expunged by court order.

c.            The retention rule applied to the main report applies to all supplementary reports.

B.           Accident Reports

Accident reports must be retained for a minimum of two years, or indefinitely if they involve a fatality.

C. Blue Team Reports

     Blue Team reports will be retained in the same manner as the relevant incident report.

D. Administrative Reports

     Administrative reports will be maintained in accordance with the governing bureau’s SOP.

X.            System Outage

If a report submission system, like MFR, is down for an extended period of time, employees must complete their reports consistent with procedures established by their Bureau Commander during the outage.

XI.          Failure to Complete Required Reports

Failure to complete a report by its deadline may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.


This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

April 21, 2009                   May 15, 2018                                                                                              

January 26, 2011                             January 8, 2021

October 31, 2018                June 1, 2024

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