Reporters and headline writers often use the ambiguous phrase "officer-involved shooting" - a phrase that needs to go. This vague wording deflects all potential blame from the officer, obscures what actually happened, and gives all benefit of the doubt to armed authorities, encouraging readers to do the same. That makes it even harder to hold rogue cops or broken police departments accountable.
As law professor Craig Martin writes, "If a dog bites a child, we would not describe the incident as a 'dog-involved biting', and we would find it odd to hear it stated this way. We would simply say that a dog bit a child."
Martin's quote brings to mind an important point: The media talks about "officer-involved shootings," but not "victim-involved wounds." The vague phrase deflects blame and obscures the story.
Police departments themselves refer to "officer-involved shooting," but it's the press' job to hold our authorities accountable, not act as their mouthpieces. The public needs reporters to ask the real questions and treat every incident on a case-by-case basis:
Was the shooting in question justified self defense, as they often are? Or was it excessive force from those who control the power dynamic? Did the victim point a gun at the officers, or were they unarmed, as we've seen far too many times lately? Was race a motivating factor?
Tell our nation's biggest newspaper chains: No more lazy language! Abandon the phrase "officer-involved shooting" today!