How to Get a Police Report

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How to get a police report
Learn how to get a report that was filed by police.

What is a Police Report?

People file a police report with law enforcement for a wide variety of reasons such as domestic disputes, traffic accidents, burglaries, and home invasions, fraud, theft, stalking, violence, and many other reasons. To file a report, citizens usually begin by calling 911, or their local police department’s non-emergency line, to report the incident.

Once a citizen reports an incident, dispatchers assign it to local officers in the area. The police officers travel to the appropriate location via car, motorcycle, or other police vehicles. Then, the officers evaluate the situation, make observations, interview witnesses, record data, and complete forms and reports required by their local police department.

Police officers also initiate the filing of a report to record the data and details associated with incidents such as car accidents, burglaries, assaults, and robberies, just to name a few.

Officers gather and record a great deal of information and data on a police report. This is to help ensure thorough and accurate investigations and to support criminal proceedings if they become necessary. Also, background verification services may use them in background checks. The information contained in the typical police report may vary from county to county, but most capture very similar information.

What type of information and data is contained in a police report?

The following are types of data and information that may be included in a police report. Please note that there is no universal police report. Information will vary from department to department.

  • Identifying information for all parties involved in the incident, including full name, address, phone number, date of birth, social security numbers, driver license numbers
  • Date of the occurrence or incident
  • Location of the occurrence or incident
  • The officer’s name and ID number
  • The names of other officers who were present
  • Diagrams or drawings of the scene
  • The names of witnesses and their statements
  • Reference number (if available)

The law enforcement case file can also contain motor vehicle information, as well as specific details of the incident and any evidence associated with the case.

Examples of police reports may include but are not limited to domestic disputes, traffic accidents, thefts, fraud, assault, burglaries, and stalking incidents. Other information that may be available includes crime surveys, crime statistics, calls for service, weather information, and traffic accident surveys.

Are Police Reports Public Records?

Many types of police records are exempt from public disclosure. There are two main reasons why they aren’t publicly available. First, disclosing the information could undermine an ongoing investigation. Second, it could jeopardize someone’s privacy and safety. In some cases, departments will release certain information related to the report, such as to a reporter doing a story. However, they rarely release a full copy.

How to Get a Police Report

By law, certain police records and violation reports prepared and maintained by the Police Department are accessible to the general public.

If you need to get a copy of a police report, do this. First, begin by researching the requirements of the police department responsible for the jurisdiction in which the incident occurred. Then, follow the department’s exact protocol for requesting and receiving those records. Start by checking the police department’s website. Expand your search to the city website if you don’t find anything on the police department’s website.

Obtain and Fill Out Request Forms

Some departments may require that you complete a request form, sometimes called a request for public records. This may also be known as a request for open records. When you check the department website, look to see if you can download the request form from their site. If so, fill out the request form and submit it according to the directions.

Most request forms will require you to provide the first and last name of at least one of the involved parties. In addition, you’ll need the location, date, and time of the incident, and in some cases, the incident or case number.

Submitting the Request Form

You will either have to email the form, send it via regular mail, or submit it in person. A valid ID and payment of a nominal processing fee are usually required to obtain copies of the document. The originating agency may also require that you sign a written disclaimer stating the information in the document will not be used for solicitation purposes.

Important Notes Regarding Submitting Requests for Police Reports

  • It may take a few days or more to obtain the official documents
  • Charges for obtaining copies of the documents may vary by city or jurisdiction
  • Very few departments allow access to records online

Access to these records varies greatly from one jurisdiction to another. In some areas, the information may be relatively easy to obtain. In other areas, the information may only be accessible to the parties involved in the incident or their agent (such as a lawyer).

It is also possible that the record of a specific incident is available, but the personally identifying information is hidden.

Freedom of Information Act Requests

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press created a helpful website that helps users create, send, maintain, and share Freedom of Information requests. Registered users can submit requests at the federal and state level. Visit the IFOIA website for more information.

LexisNexis

In addition, LexisNexis provides a nationwide search for accident reports. Just visit the site and complete the online form. You’ll need to provide the state, jurisdiction and one of the following:

  • Report Number
  • Last Name and Date of Incident
  • Last Name and Street

Access to Crime Data and Statistics

Some jurisdictions have regionalized their crime information into a joint database. Such information systems allow citizens to research crime statistics, view detailed crime maps, see who is currently in jail, search for arrest warrants, and retrieve information about sex offenders living or working in a given area. Much of this information is readily available via the Internet.


How to find arrest records across multiple jurisdictions

Conducting your investigation can become complicated if you need to do a background search on someone who has lived in multiple jurisdictions. To simplify things, an internet-based specialized investigation company can provide a comprehensive, multi-state search in one easy step. This allows you to search for multiple records from all over the country quickly and easily. And you can avoid the hassle of tracking down individual records from various government entities.

BeenVerified has an online search form for public records. BeenVerified’s automated search aggregates from hundreds of databases and repositories. To search, just go to the online search form and enter the person’s first name, last name, and their city. The form will search multiple public records databases and provide a list of potential matching names. Scroll through the list and select the person you’re looking for, then click Build Report.


Questions and More Information

If you have any questions about how to get a copy of your police report, please leave a comment below. Also, view more Law Enforcement Resources.

Disclosure: As an associate with Amazon and BeenVerified, we earn from qualifying purchases. This means if you click on a link and purchase the product or service, we receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. This helps offset some of the costs of running our site. Thanks for your support.
Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including eInvestigator.com. Michael created eInvestigator.com more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at Amazon.com.

29 COMMENTS

  1. I am gathering police reports and court dockets on myself for a background check, the agency that requires these from me does none of the document gatherings, but requires the person whose background check is under review to do it. All agencies (Police Departments and Courts) have been great, except one. They will not release the full Police report on my own arrest to me, and they won’t even really say why, nor give me a request form to fill out nor procedure to go through. They say the agency who wants me to get the report for my background check review has to request it, so each side it telling me mutually exclusive things. Any ideas for what I can do? The case is not open or pending, I already have the court docket that says I completed everything.

  2. After a case is closed, why is it still difficult to get records of a public complaint of a police officer? thanks

    • Hi Marcus,

      Depending on the State, the complaint may or may nor be public. Many states have statutes that list police investigations as confidential, not public, so they don’t fall under public record release. Similarly, Federal law lists their investigations as private, and a lot of case has supported that the privacy of people involved in those matters must be protected, as many people don’t want their private business aired for everyone to read. Some people refer to this as the “nosy neighbor” rule, which stops nosy people, who were not involved in the police matter, from being able to freely obtain it without a release from an involved party.

  3. I was stopped by Maryland police on an annoumous caller stating I was a possible DUI, a sobriety test cleared me in that accusation, but police took my 8 year old grand-daughter from my vehicle by force, put me in handcuffs, and made a non-probable cause arrest. I never saw my grand-daughter again. I was cleared from all charges, bu8t there is no evidence or mention in the police report concerning my grand-daughter. Where can I find out this information? I believe my ex-daughter-in-law made a false report to police leading them to believe it was a kidnapping. How can I find out?

  4. I was told by YOLO county that I can not obtain a copy of my police report because someone in my vehicle was arrested. Can they do that?and why how? I’m frustrated because I was illegally searched and sexually harrassed by the police officer.

  5. I’m been targeted with a false accusation criminal complaint to the PA State Police. The detective interviewed me and the DA chose not file charges. Now I need to get a copy of the police report so that I can see the false accusations and file a counter-criminal complaint about the false accusations but the clerk of courts will not let me do that because I have not been charged and have no docket number. I’ve been told by both the court and the State Police Commissioner’s office that I cannot get a copy of the police report on me. Please advise if this IS possible and how. Thanks

    • The rules for releasing the report will vary by jurisdiction and by situation. So, this is a question that is best answered by an attorney. Since you plan to file a counter suit anyway, discuss the matter with an attorney and have them request a copy of the report. Unless releasing the report is somehow exempted by law in your jurisdiction, they are much more likely to release it to an attorney who is representing you.

  6. Hi, my details and information the Police held about me was obtained by the Social Service. Is this possible for the Police to share such information with other organisations without my consent?

    • In most cases, yes, the police department can share the information with Social Services. Under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and public records laws in all states, anyone can request information from a local police department.

  7. If my adult friend dies in their parents’ home while visiting, and I think there’s foul play going on, can I get the autopsy or police report? GBI came and took the body because the friend’s dad is a no longer practicing doctor and my friend HAD a past history with substance abuse but he had been clean for many years so I thought.

  8. my father’s homicide report is still open after 46 years. The killers are now deceased and were never prosecuted for the crime. The main person who had his possessions died a week later and the other one dies ten years ago. the police won’t close the case and won’t let the family view the reports. They say its closed but not closed. How can we get them to close the report or give us a copy of it to bring closure to the family/

  9. If you are the victim are you able to obtain a police report even if the case is open? The response i received from the police dept was they were not able to provide a report because the case is still open. Also, one of the suspects came to the police dept and even admitted to the crime (according to the detective) but they did not retain them at the police dept.

    • If you are the victim, the police department that completed the report is required to make a copy available to you. However, it is difficult to say exactly when they will provide the report to you. If you are not the specific victim, and you are only mentioned in the report, then they will only provide a copy when the case is closed.

  10. When requesting records, you’re always asked for the reasoning behind making the request. What are some of the common reasons used in making requests? I don’t know what to say for my reason other than, I just want to know what happened that led to a specific individual being imprisoned.

  11. Why a person who is involved in accident , must pay tax and reqest report and wait for it for 6 weeks?
    Is it not correct everyone involved in a accident to receive a copy of the record without applying for one?

  12. I am trying to get a copy of the police report on by sons death and they will not give me a copy I was his next of kin I was told I could not have a copy so how do I go about getting one they have gave me a run around now for 3 years

    • Did the department give you a reason? Is the case still open? In some cases, law enforcement will refuse to release a report if doing so will impede the completion of an investigation, or if it might endanger a witness. Check to see if your state has an official public records act that specifies who can get a copy of a report and under what circumstances. You may also consider hiring an attorney to subpoena the report.

    • I’m having the same issue with my brother’s death. We have a case # but they are saying there is no report or PD is referring us to sheriff who was not the responding agency…PD was. Wouldnt they be required to file a report on a death? What’s the purpose of a case # then?

  13. Yes I was caught once overlimit catch of strips bass and they abandon me from fishing and I don’t get why they charge me with conspiracy to commit I felt like I was set up how can I get a copy of report y they would investigate on me and if some one set me up

  14. What if you are the victim of stabbing and are denied report, even though it was never sent to the prosecuting attorney for action?

    • Victims of crimes have a legal right to a police report pertaining to their incident. A copy of ht report should have been provided to you when you filed. If not, you should be able to contact the appropriate police department to obtain a copy. Contact them and find out what their request procedures are.

  15. how can i get my police report ?????
    I need to know where can I go ??? can someone tell me please this police report was like 6 years ago

  16. Is it called a police report when someone is killed by the police? Or is it an incident report? I’m not the next of kin, ie, the wife, but I’m an immediate family member. Am I entitled to get the report?

  17. I need the police report case number, just the number from where I was the victim. All I got is the address my name and I don’t remember the date

    • You might want to check with the Department that responded. They can usually run a search based on your name and address. Also if you know the place of the incident to which they responded is usually a big help, too.

  18. what information do i need to get reports? just a name? or do i need to know an approximate date? also can i get info about an incident where no one went to jail or had any court dats from the incident?

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