Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cops no more

I read this quirky little article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Sunday edition (1/13/08) with a delighted smile on my face. Tucked away on an inside page of the equivalent of the Metro section, it turns out not to be news at all, but a witty, compelling feature about the committee that decides whether to take away police officers' certification after they've screwed up.

I knew that we had a winner at this paragraph:
Listening to law-enforcement professionals talk about crimes and investigations to other law-enforcement professionals is a little like listening to police reports read aloud, verbatim. A lot of it is police-ese like “this particular individual” and “exited the vehicle” and “became aware during the course of our investigation” and “took an aggressive posture.”
Ahhhh ... a writer with an excellent grasp of the rhetorical power of the list of particulars, one of my favorite stylistic devices. (Plus I'm inordinately fascinated by exactly the kind of language he quotes, the kind that plaintiffs and defendants on those daytime syndicated court shows like Judge Judy throw around all the time because they think it sounds all legal and stuff.)

It's nice to find a hidden gem in the local paper, a story that's neither hard news nor soft feature but somehow fascinating in that neither-fish-nor-fowl way, written with verve and an eye for the telling detail. Check it out, and set up a Google alert for Jacob Quinn Sanders (apparently recently arrived from Portland) -- even if a lot of his assignments are generic police-beat fare, there are bound to be more offbeat wonders on the way.


the secret knitter said...

At one time I knew that language better due to a summer temp job transcribing police reports. I listened to stacks of mini-tapes of detectives dictating their reports, frequently while eating sandwiches, and got it down pat so I knew what they would say before they said it. It helped to know the style when they spoke with their mouths full and I couldn't understand them, which was more often than you might think.

JQS. said...

Awfully kind of you to say. Good to know someone reads these things.