L3R – 4.6 Field Note Capture

Field Note Capture

As a security officer, your primary responsibility is to observe and report. Report writing is an essential element of communication between the client and security officer/company. The client relies on well written and neatly presented documents. These documents reflect the professionalism brought to the client by your company.

I    Note Writing Basics

In order to write a detailed, professional report, you must have field notes. Most clients want a daily report to account for what they are paying for. You were hired to be the “eyes and ears” of any activity taking place on their property.

a.   Observation

Good observation has a direct influence on how well the officer describes events in the report. All senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell) must be sharp to effectively observe what is going on, as well as maintain personal safety. Remember that the ability to accurately observe and describe the components of an event is developed over time and requires practice.

When observing, consider how you would describe objects, places, and people using clear and vivid language. Consider color, size, shape, texture, location, and/or type. Look for every possible distinguishing mark and for anything that might be compared or related to a commonly known thing or idea.

b.  Collection

When preparing to gather information for an investigative report, approach the collection of information in an organized fashion. Have a notebook to keep all notes, paperwork, and other important information secure, and take concise but complete notes. Aim to develop a consistent shorthand so that you can quickly record notes. Write any notes that come to mind during interviews and observation to help keep your questions focused, as well as any usual circumstances.

Your field notes will help you remember details. Below are some examples of good, detailed notes.

a.   Example Field Note

5 PM – Security light in parking next to the pool was busted out. I observed several rocks laying under the light. No one was around the light. The parking lot was empty.

b.  Example Interview Interaction

If Mary from apartment #8 approaches you. You know Mary. She is usually very calm and pleasant to chat with. You can tell she is extremely upset and concerned. She informs you, “I saw this really weird looking guy over there by the swing in the apartment complex. I have never seen him anywhere in complex. I do not think he lives here.”

It is important to collect the key information about the situation. Some questions that you might want to ask include:

  • Is he still here?
  • What does he look like?
  • What is he wearing?
  • How old does he appear to be?
  • Is there anything in particular that stood out?
  • You mentioned “really weird”. What made him “weird?

Your field notes from this encounter might look like this:

6 PM – Mary, #8 approached me advising of a “really weird looking guy” by the swings. No longer there. Description- red short hair, right eye black. Wearing red coat, blue jeans, white tennis shoes. Appeared to be in his late 40’s; about 6 ft tall.

You know Mary from Apartment #8 and she has been very reliable with information she has given you previously. You go the swing set. The “really weird looking guy” is not present, nor is he anywhere on the property.

Note: It is very important to note in your report that Mary said he had a black eye. You do not want to be potentially held liable for someone’s injuries if you never came into contact with them.

II    Daily Reports

At the end of your shift, you are to write a daily report about what happened on your shift. The more you understand your field notes, the easier it will be to write a detailed and professional daily report. Do not write “see field notes,” as others should not be expected to understand your note-taking methods.

Your reports could be the missing piece of the puzzle in a criminal investigation.

Looking back at the example from interviewing Mary in apartment #8, you have reported the “weird looking guy” that she was concerned about. Now imagine if a week down the road there is a girl that happened to be walking home and the reported individual approaches her and tries to grab her. When she gives a statement to police, her description matches the individual that you have taken notes about and included in your report. That would be a huge key in the investigation.

III   Cameras

Some companies have invested in body cameras. A body camera is a video camera that records in real time and is worn on a security officer’s body. Usually, the camera is worn somewhere in the upper chest area or on the pocket of the uniform.

Like any technology, these cameras can fail to operate properly. You shouldn’t rely on them to capture the important details of any incident or situation. Even if you are provided with a camera, your observation skills are still important. Just like with your field notes, do not just write, “watch video,” in your daily reports.