Redding Police Kill Again

The Redding Police have killed again: this time at 3 a.m. during a traffic stop in downtown Redding earlier this week.  What do we know? Few details have thus far been released, so we mostly just know that the police have killed someone.

That’s right. Killed.  Definition: “to cause the death of a living thing.”

If my saying “the police have killed again” angers you, it’s maybe because you’ve swallowed whole the double-speak of law enforcement.  Exhibit A: the press release on the shooting. which is a study in the usual law enforcement euphemisms.

It was titled: “Officer Involved Shooting”.

But please note that the officer was not merely “involved” in the shooting.  He or she shot someone.

Keep in mind that if the officer had been the one who was shot, the title would not be “officer involved shooting”, despite the officer’s involvement.  Instead, it would scream, “Suspect Kills Officer”; far more direct and to the point. Fewer euphemisms would be needed in that case as the intent would be to place blame clearly on the suspect.  Not so with this press release, which is designed to shift our bias toward the police rather than against them before we even know what happened.

The RPD press release continues:

“Circumstances led to one officer discharging his firearm, striking the suspect.”

This very much reminds me of my big brother’s response when asked by our parents, “Did you hit your sister with the baseball bat?!”

Big brother: “I didn’t hit her! The bat did!”   Had he been older and more sophisticated he could have said, “Circumstances led the bat to hit her!”

The bat hit her?!

“One officer discharged his firearm, striking the suspect”?!

Wouldn’t it be easier to say, “An officer shot and killed the suspect?”

And why is the person shot by the officer a “suspect”, rather than simply a “man”?

Why, to help legitimize his death, of course.  He is suspected of what we don’t yet know, only that it was something that led to a traffic stop.  It could have been speeding, a tail light out, a tree freshener hanging from the windshield, or something much worse.

The question is, was the cause of the stop , or the events that followed that stop, something that warranted a death sentence; a death sentence carried out without judge or jury, as every fatal police shooting is?

It is actually valuable to us that we don’t yet know the details surrounding the shooting.  This allows us to focus on the language of the press release in a way that details will later muddle. After all , if we find out this was a “really bad guy” we won’t care as much if the police had legal reason to shoot him. If we find out he ran, or reached for his waist, or failed to follow orders, we will rationalize their actions quickly,  partly because we have been primed to do so by their words, and by precedent.

But right now, before the whole story comes out, pay attention. Contrast the police’s words with my words. Really listen for intent.  Watch how language shifts your mindset.

In an “officer involved shooting”, “one officer discharged his firearm, striking the suspect.”  (RPD)

The police shot and killed a man while making a traffic stop.  (me)

I want you to pick up on the nouns and verbs used, the passive and active forms of address, the ways in which language has been utilized to protect the powerful, crafted to distance the police from both the seriousness of, and the responsibility for, their actions.

And I want you to care.  Because these words matter.  The way the powerful speak does matter.  And the police are powerful, so very much more powerful than most of us realize.

Annelise Pierce
Annelise Pierce is fascinated by the intersection of people and policy. She has a special interest in criminal justice, poverty, mental health and education. Her long and storied writing career began at age 11 when she won the Louisa May Alcott Foundation's Gothic Romance short story competition. (Spoiler alert - both hero and heroine die.) Annelise welcomes your (civil) interactions at AnnelisePierce@anewscafe.com

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89 Responses

  1. Avatar grandma says:

    Great Article.

  2. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    We live in a nation neck-deep in guns and awash with gun violence. I have some sympathy for cops assuming that everyone they stop is armed—especially at 3 AM. I’m sure they all want to get home safe and sound.

    But that said, two thing are true: (1) Being a cop isn’t in the top 10 most dangerous professions in America, so my sympathy is measured.* (2) We all know how this goes. It gets rubber-stamped “justified,” unless someone happened to record it on their cell phone.

    *I’ve had guns pointed at me twice in my career. I wonder how many local cops can match that?

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Oh, and brilliant lesson in lexical semantics, Annelise.

      • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

        Yes it’s brilliant, and absolutely true – not only of law enforcement, but of the entire power structure. People and institutions in positions of power and authority always use language (one might even say weasel words in some cases) that justify their actions and/or furthers their agenda.

    • Avatar Tim says:

      Depends on how you measure “dangerous.” When it comes to fatalities, police aren’t in the top 10, they’re around 15-20. When it comes to on the job injuries that result in lost work, police are in the top 3. 1 in 22 officers will be injured severely enough to miss work each year (and that stat is actually diluted by all the desk jockies).

      Other industries would not be quite so deadly if every employee was trained in first aid, carried a trauma kit with them all day, and could be transported code 3 to the hospital at the drop of a hat.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        I trust neither injury nor disability comparative statistics at face value. People in many lines of work can’t afford to miss work even if injured, and probably nobody has easier access to permanent disability claims than cops. Stress-related disability included.

    • Avatar Annelise says:

      Steve: I very much appreciate your measured and critical commentary throughout the comments. Thank you for not being a “yes man”to me or others and for being willing to look at hard things.

  3. Avatar Sharron Peterson says:

    Ms. Pierce, I take exception to your post. You also do not know what happened, so why are you fanning the flames of police hatred? I truly hope a time never comes when you need the police.

    • Avatar Anita Brady says:

      Oh, so having the truth reported causes you to be anxious? Sad. Obviously you have never had a negative interaction with law enforcement. Maybe if the police hadn’t shot and killed the “suspect,” you would be less unnerved. But alas, Ms. Pierce is reporting on a NOT so uncommon occurrence- murdered by cop.

      Then to spew out the last sentence? Annelise has the same rights as everyone else in the country for police when she needs them; just like the Fire Department, EMS and other first responders. They will not have a list of every citizen who has a “black mark” against them, and refuse them service. And it they did, they need to be relieved of duty, just like police that murder unarmed civilians. Now- we certainly don’t know the WHOLE STIORY yet, but it seems like law enforcement is very quick to mention if the “suspect” brandished a weapon.

    • Avatar Annelise says:

      Sharron: I do not hate the police, in fact I am grateful for their service. Like all professionals they should be held accountable for their actions including the press releases they publish. Good police officers hold citizens accountable. Good journalists help hold the police accountable.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Sharron — Don’t know if it’s intended, but that last sentence reads as a veiled threat—nah, as a blatant threat. You hope she never needs the police, why? You think she’s on some kind of do-not-respond list now?

      I mean, Jesus God.

  4. Avatar Tim says:

    “Suspect” is a valid & useful description of a decedent who was acting contrary to the law and usually has culpability for their own death. It differentiates from “bystander” or “hostage” (like the UPS driver recently taken hostage by armed robbers yet accidentally killed by police in Florida, along with an innocent bystander).

    • Avatar Rob says:

      Annelise, you rail against RPD for their limited initial press release. It sounds by your article, that you would have preferred to call their verbiage vague, cryptic, and deceitful. Would you rather have RPD put out inaccurate information that may have to be retracted later, in whole or in part?

      Maybe you should interview the citizen ride-alongs in two of the police cars that were there when the shooting occurred. The officer who “discharged his weapon” or “killed” as you seem to prefer, had to protect their lives as well.

      RPD has issued another press release with much more information on the incident. Perhaps you should read it carefully and post a follow-up article, maybe with a paragraph on the harm jumping to conclusions and inciteful headlines can do.

      What the officers had to do in an extremely short time period, i.e., the exigent circumstances and the totality of the circumstances warrant immediate action to stop the threat.

      • Avatar Bonnie says:

        Thank you Rob. I agree.

      • Avatar Annelise says:

        Rob: this article was not about whether the shooting was justified. That is an entirely different story.

      • Avatar Connie says:

        Agree Rob! The general public has no idea what so ever that our LE deal with on a daily basis! The article should have been held back until all of the facts became public!

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        Rob — First you say that the press release was correctly short on conjecture about what happened.

        Then you say that the officer shot the person who died in self-defense.

        You can’t have it both ways. Your leap of faith only helps make the point of the article.

        All we know from the extremely passive wording of the press release is that an RPD officer pulled over a vehicle and then killed one of the occupants with his gun.

  5. Avatar Doug Cook says:

    With all dues respect, Annelise…I believe you are being rather hasty in writing this piece because as you said…Few details have thus far been released. So why not wait? Did the suspect have a gun and pulled it on the officer? Was the officer fighting for his life? Redding Police Kill Again is an incredibly irresponsible headline.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      She was pretty clear on the why now. Maybe try reading it again.

    • Avatar Rob says:

      Doug, I agree it is a very blunt, but irresponsible and inflammatory headline.

      • Avatar Miguel says:

        Not the point at all. The point of the article was the contrast in wording, and the very real difference that kind of “spin” can make. Further, Ms Pierce made quite clear that was the primary objective in her taking on the article in early stages. Read it again. Then form your opinions.

    • Avatar Annelise says:

      Doug and Tim: We typically only use the words “kill again” for serial murderers or wild animals. I used it here to show how language affects us, how accurate words can still create significant impressions. My words are accurate. RPD has killed before and will kill again. In fact at times it is their job to shoot to kill. My title and my article does not state that their action was wrong. Only that the press release seemed designed to distance them from their actions.

      • Avatar Connie says:

        But you didn’t have all of the facts… here they are:

        Officers approached the car and demanded the driver get out, but he refused. Officers say the suspect rolled up the window of the car and drove in reverse hitting an embankment in the parking lot. The driver then began driving forward hitting one patrol car and accelerating toward one of the patrol cars carrying a civilian but did not crash into the patrol car. The driver then crashed head-on into the front of the third patrol car forcing the airbags to deploy in his car.

        One passenger from the suspect vehicle and one civilian ride along was treated for injuries sustained when the driver rammed the patrol car.

        And as far as I am concerned, the suspect failed to obey their orders and he used his vehicle as a deadly weapon. They were justified in shooting him.

        That is why I believe you should have waited to write this article, much less release it until all of the facts were in.

        • Avatar Annelise says:

          Connie. Whether or not this shooting is justified does not pertain to this article. In fact I mention in the article that it is likely we will find out this was a really bad guy. My article is about how language is used and why it matters. The details of this shooting do not change what I wrote. But thank you for sharing them.

      • Avatar Rob says:

        Annelise, law enforcement officers do not have, “at times the need to shoot to kill”. People often die from being shot and people often survive a shooting. They (LEOs) have a need to stop the threat in a violent situation. That is why they have tasers, batons, pepper spray, less than lethal (bean bag) rounds and, of course, firearms.

        It sounds like you are the one spinning semantics. Read press releases carefully and with an open mind. The agencies are not trying to be obtuse or secretive. Failing to use correct or exact terminology can result in legal issues down the road.

        Oh, and a correction. The updated press release was issued by the Sheriff’s Office, not RPD.

      • Avatar Jessica French says:

        Sadly, I’m going to have to agree that this article is in poor timing. Also, I feel like police officers have earned the default title of officer, rather that killer before any evidence is put forth. That’s all the press release was doing, giving them respect.

        This is the second article (by news sources I usually respect) who should have paused before writing an article. I wonder what’s happening?

        We do know that regardless of any additional facts, this was a tragic event for many people, including the person who was killed, his family, the officers and their families and the civilians that were there and how much trauma they just experienced. Are we selling our humanity for a few more “likes”?

        • Avatar Annelise says:

          jessica: I don’t understand. Your concern is that I said the police killed? They did. This doesn’t lessen anyone’s status as an officer. It seems we can’t live with the mention of our police officers killing people but in fact we declare it part of their job. Tough spot for them to be in wouldn’t you say?

          The tragedy of this event is one of the reason for my article. Should i want clicks and likes I would certainly not have written a piece that questions a police press release here in the north state. One can hardly imagine a less popular action to take.

    • Avatar Connie says:

      I agree 100% with you Doug Cook!

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Oof. On the other hand, passing grades in this survey are as common as hens’ teeth.

      • Avatar Tim says:

        Pretty extreme anti-cop bias on that scorecard site. For instance they assume RPD is racist because 1 of 9 fatalities involved a black man and Redding has less than 11% Black population. Of course, it doesn’t mention that not only was that Black man not shot by RPD, but he drowned jumping into the river while fleeing.

        • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

          Tim,

          Per the demographic stats on the City of Redding website, the Black population of Redding and Anderson is only ONE PERCENT (which is considerably less than “11 percent”). It’s even lower in Shasta County as a whole.

  6. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    I think some people are entirely missing the point of this article. Annelise was careful to say that because we don’t know the facts, it’s a good opportunity to examine the language of spin in its nearly pure state.

    Once the facts come out, people will be quick to conclude that the dead guy had it coming, or the cop should lose his job, or whatever. Right now all we have is a nearly fact-free press release, so we can start to examine the language of persuasion before we learn what happened.

    I’ll just say that an incident like this is why all cops should wear lapel cameras and have them on at all times. This could turn out to be the perspective of a cop vs the perspective of a dead guy.

    • Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

      Thank you for saying this. I am seeing comments here and on ANC’s Facebook page that somehow make this article and the writer to be biased and anti-police. Try though I may, I do not see that anywhere in the text. I do see a plea to examine the language of press releases and how specific words affect the reader’s perception of what may or may not have happened.

      • Avatar Tim says:

        You don’t see how this article is biased?

        “Kill” is a pretty loaded word which generally connotes an intent to end the life – something at odds with most police use of force encounters. Police do not shoot to kill, they shoot to stop. Killing is an unintended consequence of stopping the suspect. It would have been one thing if Anneliese had used “kill” once, but by repeating it 7 times she betrays her anti-police intent.

        “Again” in the title (and repeated many times later) is unnecessarily snarky commentary that implies RPD just can’t help itself from murdering civilians. Saying “it was the 3rd (or whatever) shooting this year” would have been not only objective, but descriptive. Instead she went for the uninformative emotional appeal.

        Anneliese then goes on to speculate that this man might have died for nothing more than an air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror. Furthermore, she tells us not to trust the police’s words. Finally, she ascribes, without any proof whatsoever, nefarious motives to the tense & diction used in the press release (“protect the powerful” & “distance the police from the responsibility of their actions”).

        All of the above make this extremely biased towards an anti-police activist perspective.

        • Avatar Damon Miller says:

          I think you’re thinking of “murder.” Killed simply means to cause the death of a living thing.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            Merriam Webster definitions of kill:
            1a) to deprive of life
            2a) to put an end to
            2d) to annihilate, destroy
            3a) to destroy the vital or essential quality of

            Kill is far less loaded than murder and, if used sparingly, could be objective. But the synonyms “stop” or “neutralize” more accurately reflect the intent of officers — unless of course you believe the officers responded to that call with the goal of depriving the suspect of life or destroying his essential qualities…

          • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

            Tim — Neutralize? Seriously? That could range anywhere between shooting someone dead and talking them down with calm persuasion and a warm glass of milk.

            Everyone knows exactly what “killed” means. That’s why many don’t want it used.

        • Avatar Annelise says:

          Tim I’m pretty sure the police themselves have told me they shoot to kill. And I understand why. And I do not disagree. When lethal force is called for it should be used appropriately and with as much accuracy as possible. And It is very possible that lethal force was appropriate in this case. But Again the appropriateness of their use of lethal force was not my subject.

        • Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

          Tim, I could be wrong, but I’ve trained a number of former LEOs over the years, and I’m pretty sure that the objective is to shoot to kill. I suspect that doesn’t often vary by locale.

        • Avatar Tim says:

          Someone “shooting to kill” does not render aid once the threat has passed. Police do, often successfully.

  7. R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

    Annelise criticizes an RPD press release and the law and order freaks go nuts! I love it! NWA got it right. Add this one to a long and growing list of excessive use of force by local law enforcement since 2000. Here’s the list, which A News Cafe published in April.

    https://anewscafe.com/2019/04/09/redding/a-short-history-of-fatal-encounters-with-shasta-county-law-enforcement/

  8. Avatar Candace Constans-Corbin says:

    Classy. A commenter criticizing the writer while hiding behind a tired pseudonym. Bold.

  9. Avatar Connie says:

    I am not at all impressed with the title of this article! I am sorry, the writer may have had good intentions, but until all of the facts are out, this could have waited. Law enforcement have a tough enough job as it is, and for her to add fuel just isn’t right. I have known several LE and I wouldn’t want their job for anything in the world. The low life criminals they deal with on a daily basis and put their lives on the line to protect the communities they work in, goes above and beyond. However, I also know that there are bad cops out there, few and far between as they are, I do not believe Redding has to worry about our LE in that respect.

    In all honesty, this article should have been held back until all of the facts come out. I have re-read it and I am sorry, I do not understand her reasoning to, in my opinion, sour the public opinion of our LE without knowing all of the facts. Word play is what she is stating, legitimizing their words, etc. They write the press releases so that the public has the pertinent information until the investigation is done, they don’t do it to play behind words, or hide the facts. Unlike her title. That title is just plain wrong!

    I would be willing to bet any of the pro article responders here, couldn’t and wouldn’t be able to make life or death decisions in the short span of less than seconds as is expected of our LE on a daily basis.

  10. Avatar Connie says:

    Here is the Shasta County Sheriff’s Updated Press Release:

    *****NEWS RELEASE UPDATE******

    The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office issued the following news release regarding Sunday’s officer involved shooting involving a Redding Police officer.

    Shasta County Sheriff’s Office
    5 hrs ·
    NEWS RELEASE
    Officer Involved Shooting
    2174 Pine Street, Redding CA

    On Sunday, December 22nd, 2019, at 3:20 AM a Redding Police Officer was on patrol in the area of South Market Street and Parkview Avenue when the officer observed a white 2016 Scion passenger vehicle swerving across multiple lanes of traffic. The officer suspected the driver was possibly under the influence and initiated a traffic stop. The vehicle pulled into the parking lot of 2174 Pine Street and stopped.

    The officer contacted the driver along with the two other occupants of the vehicle. The driver appeared to be under the influence and was acting suspicious. The vehicle was associated with a male subject who was wanted for felony theft and pending robbery charges from the State of Washington. Based on the circumstances, additional officers were requested to assist with the investigation. Two Redding Police Officers arrived, each of which had a civilian ride along in their patrol car.

    Officers re-approached the vehicle and instructed the driver to exit but he refused. The driver rolled up the window, shifted the vehicle into reverse and quickly accelerated, striking the terraced embankment on the north side of the parking lot. The driver then shifted the vehicle into drive and quickly accelerated toward the three marked patrol cars. The driver sideswiped one patrol car, then rapidly accelerated toward a second patrol car where a civilian ride along was seated in the front passenger seat. The suspect vehicle did not make contact with the second patrol vehicle. The suspect then rapidly accelerated forward toward a third patrol vehicle. An officer was also next to the third patrol car and had to move out of the suspect vehicles path. The suspect vehicle then rammed head on with the third patrol car causing the airbags to deploy in the suspect’s vehicle.

    During these events, a Redding Police Officer fired his duty weapon striking the driver immediately stopping his violent actions. Officers on scene immediately rendered emergency medical aid and called for additional medical personnel to respond. The driver was transported to the hospital where he was later pronounced deceased.

    The Shasta County Multi-Agency Officer Involved Critical Incident Protocol was activated. The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, Major Crimes Unit took over the investigation with assistance of the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office and Redding Police Departments Investigations Division. One passenger from the suspect vehicle and one civilian ride along was treated for injuries sustained when the driver rammed the patrol car. The identity of the driver is not being released pending notification of the next of kin. The investigation is active and ongoing. No further information will be released at this time.

    An autopsy on the driver will be conducted later this week. Anyone with information about this investigation is urged to contact the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, Major Crimes Unit at 530-245-6135 or mcu@co.shasta.ca.us.

    • You’re missing the point. The point wasn’t about what we did or did not know about the shooting, but the way in which the press release was worded. When I received the press release, I was so struck by the passivity of the words that I read it out loud to my family.

      It reminded me of when George Bush, when talking about the rush for war, said “mistakes were made”.

      • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

        Another odd usage that seems to be common in press releases and on the news is the word “deceased,” as in “When police arrived, the person was deceased.” Must we tiptoe around the word “dead”?

      • Avatar VDodson says:

        You’re right. The point isn’t about what happened, but about the wording. Journalists ALSO must be responsible with their wording. Why change something passive into something sensational and inciteful? This is a completely irresponsible headline when the journalist doesn’t know all the facts.

      • Avatar Connie says:

        No Doni, I think you are missing the point! The title reeks of hatred and anti-bias for the police. It shows total disrespect for our LE. Words do matter and she wrote before she had all of the facts. I wonder if she had the facts, would she have written the same article? As a publisher and owner of your news site, you should have waited and held the article back until the facts were made public. Then asked her if she wanted to rewrite it.

        I am sorry, this is one instance that I do not agree with you on. It was careless and very unprofessional. Just my opinion and there are plenty of comments on another post on FB where someone shared your article that agree. Which by the way I stuck up for you (to the negative comments) as a small business, but also stated that I didn’t agree with the article.

        • Connie, when I said some readers were missing the point, I meant missing the point of Annelise’s article. I have no doubt you have your own points and thoughts on this topic, which I can’t second guess.

          Here at ANC I’m glad for a place to have civilized discussions and even disagreements about tender topics, while still maintaining respect for one another. Thank you.

  11. Avatar Cynthia says:

    You’re right words matter. Semantics matter. Here’s the thing “ officer involved shooting” does not incite anger towards those trying to keep people safe and it is true that an officer was involved. Where as “ police kill again” gives more of a thought that they’re out randomly shooting people.
    So, who’s spin is spun spinningly?

    • Avatar Rob says:

      VDodson and Cynthia, agreed. Using the word “deceased” rather than “dead” is more respectful especially for family and friends who may be hearing/reading about the person’s possible demise for the first time. Should we dumb down reporting for the lowest common denominator? Or let’s use harsh words in order to sensationalize, influence opinion or cause bias.
      I am not one to sugar coat words, but I find the LE press releases just fine as they are.
      Press releases are supposed to be factual and non-influencing, using headlines to sway opinion is “yellow press.” Opinions and diatribes belong on the editorial page.

      I thought the main principle of responsible journalism was impartial, factual reporting. I must have been mistaken or didn’t get the memo when that changed.

    • Avatar Miguel says:

      You’ve answered your own question. Words matter. Semantics matter. Exactly the point the article was trying to make, and exactly why it caused such a stir here in the posts. You would obviously prefer that journalism always be presented in away that reflects positively on this particular subject .. but that is just as much a “spin” as journalism that is aimed toward the incendiary. The article kicked up a little dust exactly as intended and caused a few, at least we hope, to reexamine some preconceived notions. A good piece of writing!

    • Avatar Rob says:

      Doni,
      With all due respect, I read Annalise’s article and I read both press releases. My posts are based on the semantics “argument” Ms. Pierce used in slanting facts and wording against LE.

  12. Avatar Michelle says:

    Annelise, please go down to the RPD and sign up for a ride along with them for the graveyard shift. I believe that will honestly let you see the reality in town. My first ride a long was back in 1995 and it was a shooting at an apartment complex on Hilltop. AND the “suspect” (which he was, not just a man) was the one initiating the shooting. He was shooting at whatever he could. When we arrived around 230 am, the Officer I was with protected me as his first priority. The police did shoot back and hit the suspect with gum fire. The second time I was near gun fire AGAIN was at the DMV with my son to take his driving test and a “suspect” was shooting by the DMV and the school. Police arrived and protected the citizens. Shot that suspect also. This shooting will always haunt me. We heard the bullets wizzing by us. And the white jeep that was next to us had bullets holes through the windows.
    So please, do a ride a long. Open your eyes a little to what what these officers go through on a daily basis. Step out of your comfort zone. Maybe you should change professions and become an Officer and put your life in danger everyday and have your loved ones pray you make it home safe every night while they lay in bed waiting for you to walk through that door.
    Sure, everyone knows someone who has been pulled over by the cops “for no reason” but from there is usually a reason they pull someone over. But to jump in and write such a story to bash the cops without having the facts is wrong.
    Please, do a ride along and write a story on your experience. Have your husband do one also and get his feedback. I would love to read that article from your prospective.

  13. Avatar Karen Calanchini says:

    Very good report by the Sheriffs office. Thanks for posting. Officer was justified in stopping the threat. He did was he was trained to do. So sad, as the police force I worked for under Robert Blankenship was so different as the times were not as violent as they are now. Many of the officers had never drawn a gun on anyone, much less had to shoot to kill. It has been over twenty years since I retired and in such a short time, it is unbelievable how dangerous it has become for all our first responders.

  14. Avatar Holly Morris says:

    Maybe you should wait for the facts to be released BEFORE you pass judgement. Better yet, live and work in an environment that grows more toxic and dangerous everyday, where people say horrible things about you because of the uniform you where, and you still put your life on the line daily to protect theirs. It’s very easy to demonize from a warm.place, far from danger. Have a dangerous criminal aim a weapon at you, then talk.

  15. Avatar Randy says:

    Might it matter if the “deceased” had a weapon or not? How many times have LE shot “suspects” running away and were absolved of wrong doing because they “feared for their lives” or because the “suspect” refused to follow commands? LE do get a very wide range of freedom in the use of lethal force these days and I think they should be reigned in.

  16. Avatar Cheryl says:

    Thank you, Connie.

  17. At the risk of repeating myself, I implore people to read Annelise’s article for themselves with an understanding that she’s NOT passing judgement on the incident, which was specifically why she wrote this before we had the follow-up press release.

    She is analyzing the press release’s language and spin, before we had any more information.

    Some people are getting up in arms, jumping to false conclusions based upon what they THINK the article was about.

    Dare I say at this point there are some especially angry people who haven’t actually read the article, and are reacting first, second and third-hand to friends and friends of friends who have also jumped to false conclusions and mistaken assumptions and are passing those along as if they’re true, when they’re a country mile from the original post.

    Our society is a better, and yes, safer place, when we can use critical thinking to evaluate those who hold the most power.

    It’s possible to respect the police and be grateful for the good officers who protect us, while we can simultaneously maintain the right to ask questions and hold our LE accountable.

    Those who are upset by Annelise’s post, I ask this: What EXACTLY bothers you about it? Do you think LE is above reproach? Do you think it’s disrespectful to question

    • Avatar Sarah Mundy says:

      What bothers me about it? Explaining to us that their wording is meant to manipulate our emotions. I read the same press release & thought it was vague. I also thought that it was an initial release & I would hear more details later that filled in those blanks. I did so without assuming anything. You see, I’m able to think for myself. However, after reading the article in its entirety my initial reaction is a local blog trying to cause a stir & bring more traffic to their site.

      The follow up responses to comments also brought to mind people thinking that they are strong & speaking truth to power. Admirable people speaking truth to power can be seen standing up to the government in Iran & Hong Kong. Questioning the wording of a local press release is hardly a bold move. Those who already question everything that law enforcement does & assume the worst agree with the article. People who would prefer to wait & see don’t agree. Hardly earth shattering stuff that you weren’t already expecting.

      Do I think law enforcement is above reproach? No I don’t. It’s also not disrespectful to question things. Just save it for something that actually calls for it. Wording of a press release is not one of those things before or after the facts come out.

  18. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    Readers, it bears repeating that comments need to be civil or they will be removed. Our comments policy:

    Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it.

    • Avatar Connie says:

      Barbara Rice, my comment was not written in an aggressive or non-civil tone. I wrote in a constructive manner.. I have never had my comments under review! So, this is a first! And it was not rude.

  19. Avatar Cheryl says:

    Ms. Pierce, “The police shot and killed a man while making a traffic stop.” (you)
    The police shot and killed a man who refused to cooperate during a legitimate traffic stop for erratic driving, was possibly wanted out of the state of Washington for felony theft and robbery and used his vehicle as a deadly weapon. (me)
    Word pong.

  20. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    In addition to following our comments policy, comments making ad hominem attacks on the author – or anyone else – will result in the comment being removed.

  21. Avatar Shannon Hicks says:

    “I want you to pick up on the nouns and verbs used, the passive and active forms of address, the ways in which language has been utilized to protect the powerful, crafted to distance the police from both the seriousness of, and the responsibility for, their actions.”

    ??Do you know the motives of the Shasta County Sheriff’s department who drafted this press release? I certainly don’t have the power to read the minds of others. I applaud you for your extraordinary abilities.

    ??You appear to be uninformed as to why law enforcement agencies choose to use certain terminology any time force or deadly force is used. Is it merely to protect the ‘powerful’ or to distance them from their actions’? ??

    Without attributing motives to those standing between the criminal element and citizens consider this: every public statement made by the police can and will be heavily scrutinized in court. Using the word ‘kill’ would be a fool’s errand leaving departments open to claims of the indiscriminate use of deadly force. A defense attorney or lawyer representing the deceased’s family would have a field day using the terminology you recommend. Did you consider that? Did you research the reasons law enforcement often uses sterile, non-emotional words in their public statements? What did you find in your research???

    Your question if the traffic stop itself warranted a ‘death sentence’ is not only a straw man argument but is purely prejudicial assuming the worst of motives. It wasn’t the traffic stop the precipitated the suspect’s death, but his actions choosing not to comply with commands instead using his vehicle as a deadly weapon.??Should the officer had simply held their hand up as the vehicle rushed toward them and their fellow officers and said, “stop in the name of the law”…. “you’re going to court!”? Would any sentient human being think there was actually time for a trial, deliberation of a jury, and sentencing by a judge while the vehicle raced toward officers?

    ??I will pay attention as you suggest and contrast your words with the statements of our sworn officers. I will ‘really listen for intent’…it appears to be an effort to stir controversy for the sake of clicks, cast doubt on the intentions of our sworn officers, and denigrate the reputation of law enforcement in general. But wait! I don’t possess the ability to determine one’s motives, only their actions.

    As you say ‘words matter’. So does terminology such as classifying this opinion piece as ‘news’. I say it’s best to check your own terminology as you cast stones. Opinion pieces are certainly crucial but they should not spread falsehoods and mislead readers.

    • Avatar Connie says:

      Bravo Shannon! Thank you for presenting another perspective and for giving us some real food for thought.

    • Avatar Annelise says:

      Shannon: You say that I can’t imagine the motives of law enforcement, then you say that their motive was almost certainly to distance themselves for legal reasons. Which is it?

      You’re right though, This is an attempt to question the police. Is that not allowed? My military husband tells me he gave twenty-three years to our country to protect our right to question the powerful. I’m grateful to him and to other military and LE who serve our country and our county. Hard questions are part of their job and they can handle them!

      I don’t for a moment fear needing to call LE for help. I know they would respond to help me just as they do for addicted persons, the mentally ill and so many more difficult people. That’s what makes many first responders heroes.

  22. Avatar Linda Cooper says:

    The “somebody” was killed, which in my mind makes the individual more than involved. Fact: The individual was killed. Anyway, I was trying out headline wording. Initially, I thought, why not leave off the “Again.” However, that didn’t work for me. Because “Redding Police Kill,” doesn’t make sense. Kill who or what? Are the RPD shooting randomly? The “Again,” does make reference to a topic that’s been discussed previously by Redding area folks.

    Along with Doni’s reference to President Bush, “mistakes were made…” regarding the rush to war, I thought of headlines for that as well. Won’t bore you.

    I believe the author of this article was sincerely wanting truth in journalism. Something like, “just the facts, ma’m, just the facts.” Or, as our grandparents might have said, “call a spade, a spade?”

  23. Avatar Stephanie says:

    I am thankful for officers on a daily basis. They put their lives on the line every time they go to work. This article…well does point out the language used. However I would like to ask this of those who are in favor of the article; would you rather LE have great grammar and English skills to better the reports or actually be good at their boots on the ground job? I personally would choose the later in every circumstance. Reports have to be fact driven and precise so they will be permissible in court. Of course they will be using the language that they have been instructed to use.

  24. Avatar Hope says:

    Annelise, given your journalistic experience and passion for language and ‘words that matter’, I would like to hear from you an example of a law enforcement press release title that would be unbiased and not distant, respectful to all those involved, and legally sound if brought into a court of law. Your critique stopped short of offering any solutions or improvement to the status quo. So I am now curious, according to your concerns presented, what would YOU write if you were a 3rd party responsible the LE press release?

    • Avatar Linda Cooper says:

      Uh, I think Annelise already provided this answer to your question. As a journalist, she has laid it our there. Now, it’s incumbent upon thinking people to contemplate about what we think regarding a headline. So, what do you think? Not what she thinks.

      • Avatar Hope says:

        I disagree. She was deconstructing a thought, a headline. Quite a difference than constructing a real one and far easier might I add. She’s a writer and has spent a lot of time thinking about how wrong and biased the current way is. I just want to know if she has considered how she would actually construct a fair and unbiased statement.

        • Avatar Annelise says:

          Hope: thanks for your question. I wouldn’t rewrite the press release. It’s certainly not my position to do so. I would also would not take charge of the jail. That doesn’t mean it’s illegitimate for me to question how either of those things are accomplished. In a free and thoughtful Society all citizens should feel free to do so.

  25. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Thank you for this thought provoking article Annelise. I think many of the responses you received here and on FB show that people don’t thoroughly read an article, or have never considered how the used of words, and in particular euphemistic lingo can alter their feelings about an event. ( “Attrit the Enemy” was a genius euphemism from the Bush years. ) Shannon Hicks’ comments about why the RPD’s press releases are so vague makes sense, although I would hate to know that the words in a press release can effect the outcome of a trial. I would however throw 0ut the word “again” because, in Redding that can only bring to reader’s minds many similar events. Great article about the power of words.

  26. Avatar Karen Calanchini says:

    Randy, in regards to your comment of the police shooting a suspect running away, I would like to add that in many cases LE are doing so because the person is a real threat to those ahead of him/her. If that is the case, and after repeated warnings to stop, they can and will be shot. Many such incidents are also, “suicide by cop”, it is a known fact and the police have statistics on such incidents. Officers who have to shoot and kill some one are not out on a hunting trip, it is serious business and many need therapy as a result.
    I am grateful for the training they get, and continue to train on a weekly basis. Split second decisions have to be made sometimes and while not always the best outcome, they are out there to protect the rest of us.

  27. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    Once more, our comments policy:

    Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.

    Ad hominem attacks on the author or anyone else will also be deleted.

  28. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    I have been checking the Police shootings here in Phoenix, more than average cities, and the release usually goes like this, “Police involved shooting, suspect killed”.

  29. Avatar Chad Magnuson says:

    Now the facts have been released by the sheriff’s office I wonder if the civilian doing the ride along, or the person in custody in the back seat of a police car will be eye witnesses.
    Or will it only be LE’s version of what happened.
    Body Cams anyone?
    Citizens Review Board anyone?

    • Avatar Richard Christoph says:

      Yes, having two civilian eyewitnesses will be an advantage in determining the facts of what actually happened, and perhaps deter those who insist on rushing to judgment whenever an “officer involved shooting” occurs.

  30. Avatar Kmm says:

    It doesn’t mention the officer punched and broke the glass on the drivers window and pepper sprayed into the vehicle and how could this man see. His foot could have hit the gas . he was killed.

  31. Avatar Jist Cuz says:

    WE ALL REALIZE THAT WE NEED THE POLICE. CALM DOWN AND STOP tHe GUNFIGHT @ tHe ASPHALT COWBOY CORRAL PLEASE +!+

  32. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    At the risk of redundancy/repeating myself, keep your comments civil or they will be removed.

  33. Avatar Clinton Kane says:

    Yes “words matter.” I personally felt the use of the word “again” a bit indignant and disconcerting. Seems your point in the article is that “words matter.” Indeed.

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