Careers in criminology and criminal justice certainly require a wide variety of skills. Among the most important skills and abilities, those looking for jobs in criminology will need, no matter their specific field, is the ability to communicate in various forms. Written language is perhaps the single most valuable skill career seekers should possess.
Written communication is vital in every aspect of the criminology career. Police officers write reports; criminologists issue proposals, policy papers and studies; and forensic science technicians produce written records of their findings and conclusions. Writing is one of the most fundamental abilities in every career option within criminology. Here are a few reasons why you should want to hone your writing skills now so you can be more effective in the future:
Face it; first impressions do matter, whether you want them to or not. The simple fact is that in most cases, your written reports will be the first and only introduction you'll ever have to some very important and high-ranking people. Whether you're presenting a survey or a study you've just completed or you're writing an arrest report, your written word will be seen and reviewed by judges, politicians, lawyers and the press.
A poorly written report can leave someone with a bad impression of not only your abilities and intelligence but your dedication, as well. Often, people will think badly of someone who they perceive has not taken the time to complete a well-written or thorough report.
Conversely, a report that is well written can make a tremendous first impression and lead to new contacts and new opportunities down the road. Whether you like it or not, it matters what people think of your work product.
In the case of police officers, detectives, and crime scene investigators, a poorly worded or badly organized report can mean the difference between a criminal being brought to justice or going free. In many instances, state and district attorneys will decline to prosecute defendants if the original arrest document is wrought with errors of fact or if it reads as if a kindergartner wrote it.
Reports need to be well organized and written so that they articulate the thoughts you are trying to convey. If they fail to get your point across, they will have served no purpose, and your effort will be wasted.
If you are trying to recommend that a legislature or municipal council adopt a new policy, they may ignore your advice because they lack faith in your intelligence or they're unable to follow your disjointed thought process.
For police officers and investigators, if a state or district attorney lacks faith in your ability to articulate the facts of the case, or if you fail to do so in your report, the defendant will go free. Poorly written reports will also leave you wide open to attacks from defense attorneys, who will try to portray you as incompetent and negligent. Don't give them the ammunition they need!
Effective Communication is Key
Communication is vital to achieving the goal of voluntary compliance with the law. Criminal justice and criminology workers must be able to articulate their actions and reasoning to the public to maintain their support.
Police reports are the first place media outlets will look when a high profile incident occur. Without the ability to effectively communicate the details of the event, public misconceptions prevail. In the same manner, criminologists must be able to present their research and findings coherently to persuade others to take up their positions effectively.
In every instance, the ability to write well is not only a valuable skill but a vital one. To be successful and effective in your chosen profession, you need to start working on your ability to use the written language.