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Policing grammar in law enforcement


Policing grammar in law enforcement

This is admittedly a minor quibble. Don’t get me wrong. When I compare the way police communicate with the media now, to when I started out as a reporter, it’s like night and day. Back then (I won’t say how far back) you almost had to have a personal relationship with a cop to get any information. Police did not issue news releases as a matter of course. We did have the advantage of being able to listen in on their radio dispatch calls, which was the only way we knew anything was happening. That avenue has been cut off with encryption technology, but everything else is much better. Now. every police service has dedicated communication staff and protocols, and issue daily reports to the public and media. It all changed around the time they stopped calling them police FORCES and instead police services. So good.

What is not so good is the way grammar is getting mangled in the police reports and in some court reporting. For example, the participle has all but disappeared. A Stoney Creek man was recently charged with “Utter Threats”. Others are charged with “fail to comply”. Fail is a verb–FAILURE is a noun. EMS workers are on trial in Hamilton for “failure to provide the NECESSARIES of life. They use to call it necessities – what changed?  Some police news release writers have taken to the German norm of capitalizing every noun. This is all happening at a time when almost all police officers have a college or university degree. There once was a time when  a kid with grade 8 would know all this stuff, but because it required rote memorization, something that has been purged from education, people, even educated people– do not know the rules.  And as a result, there are no rules. The police are busy, and we are grateful for the information they provide; so, its not so much that they should grammar-check their releases but hopefully the media will do so, as they relay the news to the public.


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