How to Write a Radio Story from a Police Release: Turning Cop Talk to the Media into a Good Broadcast Script

So you’re here to write a killer police report story but have failed on the first hurdle on how to do it? Then you are in the right place – we are going to cover the key steps needed to write that perfect police news story that is going to get your name as a journalist ringing out of the pages.

Key Steps To Write A Killer Police News Report

Be The First To Hear The News

The key to success is finding a story that no other journalist has got their fingers on – how to do this? By finding the best police scanner to lock into police radio and listen to their radio’s live. This will give you the perfect opportunity to pickup news from the comfort of your own home! You can pickup key frequencies over at RadioShack

Cut Down Dating Details

Police often write down a lot of details about the date and time because it is important for their reports. You can say ‘morning,’ ‘afternoon’ or ‘night.’ Also make sure to check the date, sometimes police will send a release today about an incident that happened a few days ago.

Find Key Points

Releases are often written in chronological order, your job is to find the most important point and make that your lead sentence to get the attention of the listener. Ask yourself what would you tell a friend if you heard this story. Most people would not start out saying police recieved a call about an incident, they would start talking about how a man was shot dead.

Make it Conversational

Formal language is often used in releases, but writing for radio is more conversational. So ‘female’ or ‘male,’ should be changed to ‘woman’ or ‘man.’ Insetad of ‘deceased’ it’s better to say ‘someone died’ or ‘is dead.’

Clichés & Redundancies

Watch for clichés like ‘flee on foot,’ you can just say the person ran. Also watch for redundant phrases like ‘on the scene,” just cut that part out. Or “an older man in his sixties” — a man in his sixties is all you need.

Check Information

Check the spelling and the common sense factor when reading a release, police can be in a hurry to send it out and sometimes make mistakes. Releases usually include a contact number, go ahead and call if you are unsure of information.

Add Background Information

Add information to the story if you can. Is this a high-crime area, have similar crimes happened here before or involved the same people? Is it a quiet neighbourhood where such violence would be shocking?

Sample Police Media Release

Westown Police received a call regarding an incident at a residence within the 1400 block of Chase Street at approximately 22:35 on March 16th, 2009. Officers were dispatched to the premises immediately, whereupon they discovered a deceased male with what appeared to be gunshot wounds in a room at the Wild Rose Hotel. Officers interviewed witnesses on the scene and it is believed that an altercation happened in a third floor suite within said complex. Witnesses told police officers that they had heard yelling and threats between two men and later several gunshots fired. An older male in his sixties and a female in her teens were seen fleeing on foot from the room and the hotel soon after. We have not ruled out foul play in this incident and consider it a suspicious death where investigators are continuing to speak to witnesses. Pending contact with the deceased’s family, no further details will be released about the victim.

Sample Rewrite for Radio

A man is dead after a shooting in Westown tonight. Witnesses say they heard fighting and then gun shots coming from a room at the Wild Rose Hotel on Chase Street. A man in his sixties and a teenage girl were seen running from the room soon after. RCMP are interviewing witnesses and searching for suspects. They’ve been to this hotel before, last year a Red Rose gang member was shot to death in the parking lot.

Remember the key to rewriting a police news release is to boil it down to its main points, add background information and keep it conversational.