"14-year-old Parkview High School Freshman, Caleb Christian was concerned about the number of incidents of police abuse in the news. Still, he knew there were many good police officers in various communities, but had no way of figuring out which communities were highly rated and which were not.
So, together with his two older sisters: Parkview High School senior Ima Christian, and Gwinnett School of Math, Science, and Technology sophomore, Asha Christian, they founded a mobile app development company– Pinetart Inc., under which they created a mobile app called Five-O.
Five-O, allows citizens to enter the details of every interaction with a police officer. It also allows them to rate that officer in terms of courtesy and professionalism and provides the ability to enter a short description of what transpired. These details are captured for every county in the United States. Citizen race and age information data is also captured.
Additionally, Five-O allows citizens to store the details of each encounter with law enforcement; this provides convenient access to critical information needed for legal action or commendation.”
Police in Ferguson, Missouri, once charged a man with destruction of property for bleeding on their uniforms while four of them allegedly beat him.
I’ve noted this passive voice often. Here’s Radley Balko:
You’re probably familiar with the weaselly way politicians tend to apologize when they’ve been caught red-handed. The most famous example is the use of the line, mistakes were made. Use of the passive voice in an admission of wrongdoing has become so common that the political consultant William Schneider suggested a few years ago that it be referred to as the “past exonerative” tense.
You’ll often see a similar grammatical device when a police officer shoots someone. Communications officers at policy agenies are deft at contorting the English language to minimize culpability of an officer or of the agency. So instead of …
… Mayberry Dep. Barney Fife shot and killed a burglary suspect last night …
You’ll see …
… last night, a burglary suspect was shot and killed in an officer-involved shooting.
It’s a way of describing a shooting without assigning responsibility. Most police departments do this. But we can take a few recent examples from the Los Angeles Police Department. Here, for example, is how the LAPD describes a typical shooting that does not involve a police officer:
On February 10, 2014, around 6:10 p.m., the victim was in the parking lot in the 13640 block of Burbank Boulevard, to the rear, when he was confronted by the suspect. The suspect produced a semi-automatic handgun and fired numerous times striking the victim in the torso.
Note the active voice. We have a clear subject, verb, and direct object. 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.
The officer exited his police vehicle and began to give commands to the suspect at which time he observed Gomez was armed with a box cutter. Gomez refused to comply with the officers’ commands and began to approach him, still armed with the box cutter. The officer deployed his OC spray which did not appear to affect Gomez. When the suspect continued to advance on the officer while refusing to comply with his repeated commands, an officer-involved shooting (OIS) occurred.
While still in a position of cover, the officers encountered a male suspect who was armed with a weapon at which time an officer involved shooting occurred.
I’m not questioning whether any of these shootings were justified. I’m just drawing your attention to the language.
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.
As it turns out, Winkler was innocent. He hadn’t “aggressed” the officers at all. Rather, he and another victim, both of whom had been stabbed, were running toward the police to escape their assailant. (The deputies shot the other victim, too.) The press release incorrectly assigned criminal culpability to an innocent stabbing victim, but carefully avoided prematurely assigning responsibility to the deputies who shot him.
That noted Winkler incident inspired my post, “Killer Cops and the Compliant Media that Peddle their Lies.” The police shot and killed an unarmed man who was helping a stabbing victim, and yet the media diligently covered for them. It was an aspect of that story that had gone completely unmentioned, and I’m glad Balko has brought more attention to it.
Read the rest of Balko’s piece here.