For many correctional employees, being exposed or put under an internal or externally generated investigation may cause many alarm bells to go off inside the head. One can only hope that such reports are done and performed with due diligence and unbiased thinking. In corrections and other law enforcement professions, many careers or future job assignments and opportunities, hinge on the outcome of such reports. Therefore, an investigation report should be one of the most tedious and accurate tasks an investigator undertakes. There are no exceptions to this rule.
A good solid report should not be skimmed over or done with skimping time and effort to do it right. Deadlines imposed should be reasonable and allow ample time to take this critical step of due process to a higher moral ground and not compromise politics or personal ambitions. The report should reflect both the credibility of the investigator and the investigation itself.
Too many times have investigators fallen short of the desired and designed purposes of such reports. Otherwise, the report will fall short of its desired outcome of providing a clear, comprehensive and accurate document for others to read and understand. An investigation report has many purposes.
Before an investigation is launched or written, it’s important to understand the three critical tasks of a workplace investigation report.
- It is a document that generates some type of action or thought pattern based on formal and informal findings it presents to the reader(s).
- It outlines the steps taken to glean or record the steps of the investigation to illustrate and present the belief that it was done unbiased and time, complete and fair.
- A good report contains information that may be cited as facts for any legal action pending or recommended, while illustrating completeness and details; not unwanted or unnecessary details that may leave other questions unanswered. (Exception specified)
- On the other hand, the report can be used as a follow up step to clarify one’s thinking and uncover more or additional questions to be drawn into the matter and provide new insight on the case.
- A solid investigative report provides valuable data that can be sued to implement control, redirection, remedial training and intervention or preventive measures for the organization.
Finally, every report should include an executive summary that consolidates case information into a clear and concise synopsis. The executive summary helps high-level stakeholders get an overall picture of the allegations, investigation and outcome. The executive summary should be a concise overview of the investigation from beginning to end. It should not contain any material that is not already in the investigation report. It should always be written in the active voice.
- It must be organized in a way that anybody internally or externally can understand it without having to reference other materials. This is a critically important factor.
- It must document the investigative findings objectively and accurately and provide decision makers with enough information to determine whether they should take further action or whether the matter is closed and fulfilled.
- It must indicate whether the allegations were substantiated, unsubstantiated or whether there’s something missing that is needed to come to a more complete conclusion.
This may be the most important component of the investigation report. Many persons who reads these reports, will never need to go beyond this section. High-level participants e.g. executive level administrators, manage get an overall picture of the allegations, investigation and outcome. Ensure the summary is chronologically correct and short and concise to the point.
Essential or mandatory steps taken to ensure a complete investigative report:
- Received complaint date with specifics included
- Date of case assignment
- Date(s) of interviews of primary subjects and witnesses
- Document results of such interviews
- Make a decision whether complaint is substantiated or not based on interviews
- Make a recommendation based on results of the investigation
- List preliminary case information
- Summarize the allegation
- List subject of the allegation
- Details of the investigation
- Investigative Plan and Scope of such plan
- Written detailed case related notes
- Document all investigative interviews conducted and method used
- Write a report for each interview
- Assess credibility for each interviewed subject or person
- Document any and all evidence pertaining to the case
- Analyze all evidence prior to writing conclusion
- Make a conclusion
- You must be able to show that your conclusions are based on reliable evidence that is relevant and that you have considered any evidence that doesn’t support your conclusion.
- It’s important for your conclusion to be defensible, based on the evidence you have presented in your investigation report. You must be able to show that your conclusions are based on reliable evidence that is relevant and that you have considered any evidence that doesn’t support your conclusion.
- Make recommendation if requested to do so. Always ask if not mentioned
- Proofread your work and make corrections. Keep in mind that your investigation report may be seen by your supervisors, wardens and deputy wardens, division or regional directors, even high-level executives in your agency, as well as attorneys and judges if a case goes to court.
Corrections.com author, Carl ToersBijns, (retired), has worked in corrections for over 25 yrs He held positions of a Correctional Officer I, II, III [Captain] Chief of Security Mental Health Treatment Center – Program Director – Associate Warden - Deputy Warden of Administration & Operations. Carl’s prison philosophy is all about the safety of the public, staff and inmates, "I believe my strongest quality is that I create strategies that are practical, functional and cost effective."
Other articles by ToersBijns: