When Police Shootings Occur, So Do Language Contortions


The Washington Post’s Radley Balko explores the language contortions used in police reports “to minimize culpability of an officer or of the agency.” He cites this example from the LAPD in May: “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.”

Another example came from the L.A. Sheriff's Department last April, Balko writes. While responding to reports of a stabbing, deputies shot and killed John Winkler, 30. In an initial press release, the department said Winkler “aggressed the deputies and a deputy-involved shooting occurred.” In fact, Winkler had been stabbed and was running toward the police to escape his assailant. In 2011, the DEA and local police burst into the home of an innocent family during a botched raid. The agency later put out a press release apology with this quote from the special agent in charge: “We sincerely regret that while attempting to execute an arrest warrant for a member of this drug trafficking organization, the innocent McKay family was inadvertently affected by this enforcement operation.”

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