CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"The curious grammar of police shootings"

Radley Balko has this piece at The Washington Post, providing several examples of the use of the "past exonerative” tense that are silly enough to make you wonder how even a PR person could think they made things better. In part:

Contrast that with how the LAPD has described a few recent shootings by LAPD officers:

When the officers arrived they were confronted by a Hispanic male armed with a sword. The officers attempted to take the suspect into custody by using a taser but it was ineffective. The suspect then ran towards the officers still armed with the sword and an officer-involved-shooting occurred.

There was a particularly egregious example of this with the L.A. Sheriff’s Department last April. While responding to reports of a stabbing, LASD deputies shot and killed 30-year-old John Winkler. In an initial press release, the department said Winkler “aggressed the deputies and a deputy-involved shooting occurred.” Note that Winkler’s actions were put in the active voice, while the officers’ actions were put in the passive.

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