Legible and Accurate Field Notes of a Criminal Investigator
It is important for a criminal investigator to keep legible and accurate all the field notes. The major purpose of field notes is to record the facts of a case being investigated. Notes must be legible; the investigator should take time to write the numbers and letters indistinctly. This is especially important when writing names and addresses. Field notes should be detailed.
For example, it should not be just a shirt, but rather a red shirt with blue stripes, etc. The details of the notes could be of significance in the current investigation but could be of great help in the near future. An investigator might choose to include a fact to add objectivity to the notes. However, the investigator should restrict his/her notes to facts observed, learned, and the inferences drawn. For example, an investigator can record “the suspect appeared nervous” to infer his observation where a suspect constantly looked at his watch, over his shoulder, perspired, and so forth. The notes should also be succinct and precise to increase the clarity of the information.
The third point reflects on the need to maintain consistency in the use of symbols and abbreviations. Sudden changing of a label or using the label interchangeably will confuse the investigator and could give the attorney a reason to question the accuracy of the investigator’s notes. Additionally, the notes taken should be accurate. Inaccuracy in notes taking can result in the loss of a witness or suspect.
Furthermore, they can lead to wrong conclusions. Accuracy of the notes can be maintained by having people spell out the names to the investigator, repeat spellings, and verification. Correcting an error, crossing it, rectifying the error, and initialing it. Avoid erasing information, and whether it occurs accidentally or intentionally, erasures question the credibility of the notes. The material format of notes taking should be considered. During training, the criminal investigator is encouraged to use a bound book during his/her note-taking to prevent pages from pulling out and questions being made as to the whereabouts of the missing notes. In conclusion, notes taken should be complete, accurate, factual, legible, clear, and organized to avoid questioning the credibility of the notes, consequently reaching wrong conclusions.