Friday Random 10: Cop Talk Edition

Pax Arcana

copstacheThe mellifluous and articulate Mrs. Pax Arcana and I have long made sport of police officers and their peculiar word choices. Point a camera or notebook at a cop and they shift instantly into speaking a language that is related to English, but only tangentially. The overarching rule of cop talk is to ignore simple words when more obscure ones are available.

For example, a normal human being might give the police the following statement:

“I was just getting out of my car and I saw a man coming out from behind the house. Then I called you guys.”

Which will be translated for the media as:

“The eyewitness indicated that he was in the process of exiting his vehicle when he observed a male individual exiting from the rear of the residence. The eyewitness indicated that it was at that time that he alerted law enforcement.”

Part of me thinks cops do this thinking they are speaking a somehow more precise code language. Another part of me thinks cops have simply concocted a blue-collar baroque tongue that elevates them above the riff-raff they habitually toss in the pokey. Or maybe they just try to sound like robots.

Regardless, this condition apparently hurts cops in court. According to this essay by a professional witness trainer, the peculiarities of cop speak drives a wedge between them and the juries they are supposed to impress:

When you talk like that, you sound like somebody who’s full of himself or who’s trying to hide the truth in a mountain of syllables – both are stereotypes we do NOT need to be reinforcing with jurors. You don’t sound like a regular person the jury can relate to and identify with. So, when the defense attorney starts beating up on you the jury just sees two courtroom professionals – neither of which they can identify with (which means they can’t empathize with) – going at each other in some highfalutin’ word game that has little to do with them – or justice.

When asked what behaviors increase a witness’ credibility in court, jurors responded that “uses understandable language” is one of the most important. [Trial Behavior Consulting, Inc., THE RECORDER, October 1997.] That’s why we call it “straight talk.” This is the critical reason to quit talking funny in court – it hurts your credibility. Credibility is the degree to which the jury believes you – and that’s the one confrontation you must win in court.

Also, shave those goddamn mustaches off. They look ridiculous.

The songs:

Aluminum Park — My Morning Jacket
At the House of the Clerkenwell Kid — The Real Tuesday Weld
Sundialing — Caribou
Advance Cassette — Spoon
The Tooth Fairy and the Princess — Hüsker Dü
Innocent Bones — Iron & Wine
Dance All Night — Ryan Adams and the Cardinals
All Apologies — Nirvana
Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell — The Flaming Lips
Roses Are Free — Ween

Bonus Video:

I Wanna Be Your Dog — Iggy Pop and the Stooges (late homage to Ron Asheton):

The Rules: The Friday Random 10 is exactly that — random. We open up our iTunes, set the thing on shuffle, and listen to 10 songs. We are not permitted to skip any out of embarrassment or fear of redundancy. Commenters are encouraged to post their own.


Filed under music

2 responses to “Friday Random 10: Cop Talk Edition

  1. Ever hear the Uncle Tupelo cover of I Wanna Be Your Dog? Awesome. Why? Tweedy.

  2. 1. Ry Cooder – 5000 Country Music Songs
    2. Atlanta Rhythm Section – Earnestine
    3. Jay-Z – Renegade (feat. Eminem)
    4. Passion Pit – Sleepyhead
    5. Dead Confederate – The Rat (if you get a chance to see these guys, dont miss it. Drive By Truckers meets Nirvana or something.)
    6. Aretha Franklin – Rock Steady (“Young, Gifted & Black” is an incredible album)
    7. My Morning Jacket – Untitled
    8. Bonnie Prince Billie – (Keep Eye On) Other’s Gain
    9. Girl Talk – Dont Stop
    10. Gregory Isaacs – Slave Master

    Uncle Tupelo – Anthology (with I Wanna BE Your Dog cover)

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