Police Say A Lot Of Things

It’s not all cops who lie. Just the bad apples.

Not the good apple cops who regularly, actively, loudly denounce the bad apple cops, turning them in and testifying against them, and stopping them from doing bad apple things out there in the field.

No, it’s not those *good* cops that I’m complaining about. Just the other kind.

Police lie. They, along with prosecutors, lied that seventh-grader Adam Toledo was holding a gun when he was shot dead by a Chicago police officer last month, until the body camera footage released yesterday showed that Toledo’s hands were empty and he was complying with the cop’s order to put his hands up when he was gunned down. They lied that Laquan McDonald was lunging toward an officer when he was shot. They almost certainly lied that Michael Reinoehl opened fire on them before he was shot. They might be lying about Anthony Thompson Jr. They plant guns. They plant drugs. They lie. Not all of the time, or even most of the time, but so often that there’s a term for it, “testilying”—and so often that it should be an inescapable fact in the back of your mind any time they say anything.

They lie for the same reason anyone lies: to avoid punishment. 


If a reporter makes the conscious decision to use the verb “claim,” it may force them to disengage autopilot and actually consider what is being claimed, and the unknowable nature of it, and thus present it to readers more fully and more helpfully. If a reader encounters the verb “claim,” they will perhaps be reminded that what they are reading is just that—a claim, by one party with all the motivation in the world to have its words prioritized. Good lawyers understand the power of word choice—their clients always “state”; their opponents “claim”—and good reporters must too. —Barry Petchesky, Defector

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