Thursday, April 13, 2006

Good news, bad news, cop news

What's the good news about cop news? There's always the competition to show us how ineptly it can be done! Take it away, the Edna Buchanans of mid-Missouri:

Your Name Here wasn’t going to jail without a fight.

In the end, however, the 19-year-old Columbia man was arrested shortly after midnight this morning on suspicion of second-degree assault, two counts of felony resisting arrest, first-degree burglary, property damage and misdemeanor stealing. But not after he allegedly assaulted a security officer with a bottle, broke into a house, stole a cell phone and escaped from a hospital emergency room, the Columbia Police Department said in a news release.


Wow. Do you suppose we allegedly mean "not BEFORE" he allegedly did all that stuff he allegedly did? And did the cops allegedly say he allegedly did it, or just that he did it? At any rate, no matter how bleak it seems at Collegetown's top morning daily, someone across town will do his/her best to look worse:

Somebody Else's Name Here wouldn’t take no for answer.

For the second time in eight days, Columbia police last night caught the 41-year-old Columbian after business hours at Meineke Car Care Center. Each time, an alarm system at 1722 Paris Road gave him away.


Thanks, Judge Trib, for sparing us the hassle of putting the guilty sod on trial! Here's the home side on the same tale:

A Columbia man was arrested for the second time in eight days Monday on suspicion of burglarizing a Paris Road car wash.

Competent, newsy and not -- well, unlike the competition, not blatantly puerile. Vastly better. But while there's room to sigh in relief, there's also room for improvement. Start by resolutely striving to eliminate all traces of the Perfect Police Propaganda Phrase, whenever and wherever it appears.* We've gotten it out of the lede, but there's more work to be done:

Police arrested Somebody Else's Name Here, 41, on suspicion of second-degree burglary, second-degree property damage and possession of a controlled substance after responding to a burglar alarm at the Meineke Car Care Center at 1722 Paris Road.

Police responded to the alarm, located in business’ office area, at 8:34 p.m. and arrested Name after he tried to flee the scene, a Columbia Police Department news release said.

We've still managed to note twice in two grafs that the police responded to a burglar alarm. Since that's sort of their job, why not let the more relevant parts of the job imply the boring ones:

A burglar alarm sounded about 8:30 p.m. in the office area of the Meineke Car Care Center at 1722 Paris Road. Somebody Else's Name Here, 41, was caught trying to flee and was arrested on suspicion of second-degree burglary, second-degree property damage and possession of a controlled substance, police said.

We're a line to the good and all the facts (and relevant attribution) are still in place. We've said something important that the cops did (caught somebody fleeing), from which even pretty dense readers can infer that the cops must have responded to something. But there's more:

Officers quickly learned that Name had been arrested on suspicion of burglary and related charges on April 3 after police responded to an alarm at the same car wash. Name was brought to the Boone County Jail after the April 3 arrest but was released after posting a $14,000 bond on the same day.

Again, let stronger imply weaker (he can't have been released if he hadn't been in custody, right?). And "police responded to" can simply vanish:
Officers quickly learned that Name had been arrested on suspicion of burglary and related charges on April 3 after an alarm at the same car wash. He was released that day after posting a $14,000 bond.

Another line picked up at no cost. Amazing what can transpire when you talk about what happened, rather than the order in which people did their jobs.

Don't expect cop news to be Shakespeare. Most of it won't even be Marlowe, whichever Marlowe you prefer. But most of it can be tightened down with no loss of meaning if we wean ourselves from the tyranny of the press release bit by bit.


* That'll be this one, courtesy the fax machine in the competition's newsroom: Columbia police responded to the 3000 block of South Providence Road last night after witnesses said four armed men entered a home through an unlocked door and demanded money. One supposes it's technically possible to write a sillier lede, but why try?

2 Comments:

Anonymous Strayhorn said...

Philip Marlowe,of course.

"And then your guy took a couple shots at me, but that's neither here nor there."

3:29 PM, April 14, 2006  
Blogger fev said...

Yeah, "The Long House Ad." Soon to be a major motion picture.

4:38 PM, April 14, 2006  

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