Writing Alone or Together: Police Officers’ Collaborative Reports of an Incident

Annelies Vredeveldt*, Linda Kesteloo, Peter J. van Koppen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


After witnessing an incident, police officers may write their report collaboratively. We examined how collaboration influences the amount and accuracy of information in police reports. Eighty-six police officers participated, in pairs, in a live training scenario. Officers wrote a report about the incident, either with their partner or individually. Reports by two officers working together (collaborative performance) contained less information than reports by two officers working individually (nominal performance), with no difference in accuracy. After the first report, officers who had worked individually wrote a collaborative report. Police officers who recorded their own memories prior to collaboration included less incorrect information in the collaborative report than police officers who wrote a collaborative report immediately after the incident. Finally, content-focused retrieval strategies (acknowledge, repeat, rephrase, elaborate) during the officers’ discussion positively predicted the amount of information in collaborative reports. Practical recommendations for the police and suggestions for further research are provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1071-1092
Number of pages22
JournalCriminal Justice and Behavior
Issue number7
Early online date10 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


Authors’ note: This study was funded by the Police and Science Program. We thank the members of the Police and Science steering committee for their useful input. We are also grateful to Roel Boon, Niels Balk, Barbara van Caem, Theo Jochoms, Trude van Rees, Han van As, Danny Pennings, Peter Harmusial, Ronald Nijland, Angelique Engelen, and Heim de Vries for helping us organize data collection at police training locations. Many thanks go to the research assistants who helped create research materials, recruit participants, and code data: Inger van Boeijen, Carla Vinke, Jelle Zwarekant, Talitha Dehaene, Danique van Leeuwenstijn, Alieke Hildebrandt, Rob Vredeveldt, Eva Fijen, and Eveline Rosloot. We also thank the experts who answered our questions about collaborative writing of police reports in different countries: Andreas Kapardis, Kristina Kepinska Jakobsen, Pekka Santtila, Marie-Laure Brunel-Dupin, Ólafur Örn Bragason, Aleksandras Izotovas, Trond Myklebust, Józef Wójcikiewicz, Colin Tredoux, Alicia Nortje, Pär-Anders Granhag, Lorraine Hope, Ray Bull, Becky Milne, Andy Griffiths, Steve Penrod, and Ron Fisher. Last but not least, we are indebted to all the police officers who took the time to participate in this research. We previously wrote a report about this research in Dutch for the Police and Science funding program: Vredeveldt, A., Kesteloo, L., & van Koppen, P. J. (2016). Samen of apart: De invloed van overleg tussen agenten tijdens het opstellen van het proces-verbaal. Apeldoorn: Programma Politie & Wetenschap. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Annelies Vredeveldt, Faculty of Law, VU University Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands; e-mail: anneliesvredeveldt@gmail.com.

FundersFunder number
Police and Science Program


    • collaborative recall
    • memory
    • memory conformity
    • police report
    • retrieval strategy


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