Who (or Whom) Is Carrying a Gun?

My friend Joseph E. Badger recently raised an interesting question about a persistent usage issue: Is it who or whom? (Joe is an internationally known accident deconstructionist and a topnotch writer who has had over 100 articles published in Law and Order magazine, Accident Reconstruction Journal, Accident Investigation Quarterly, and others.)

The sentence is about a video you’ve probably seen recently: Police officer Michael Rapiejko used his cruiser to run over suspect Mario Valencia in Marana, Arizona. According to police chief Terry Rozema, that decision probably saved the suspect’s life.  (You can see the video below.)

Here’s the sentence that Joe asked about:

In this video there is a pedestrian who I believe is carrying a gun (or at least I hope so).  

Joe’s question: Should it be “who I believe” or “whom I believe”?

My answer: The correct choice is who.

If you read the sentence aloud, you’ll notice that “I believe” is sort of an aside. (Some English teachers would call it an “interrupter.”) So we could add a couple of commas, like this:

In this video there is a pedestrian who, I believe, is carrying a gun (or at least I hope so). CORRECT

Now it’s much easier to choose the correct word. A trick I use is to plug in he and him. If he sounds right, use who. If him sounds right, use whom.

So: he is carrying a gun…who is carrying a gun.

One more comment: “Whom” is disappearing from the English language. If you’re one of the people who still use it, you run the risk of sounding artificial or affected. (Hmmmm – I used it just yesterday!)

In a few years, whom will probably be gone for good, and we’ll all be able to stop worrying about whether to use who or whom. I’m one person who thinks that’s good news.

My thanks to Joe for providing a provocative issue for this post!

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A Painful Police Report

By now we’ve all seen the video: On April 4, Officer Michael Slager from the North Charleston Police Department fatally shot Walter Scott. A cell phone video suggests there were no legitimate grounds for the shooting, and Slager has been charged with murder.

A police report filed by another officer who reported to the scene has been released to the public: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1787580-document.html

Sergeant Gann, who wrote this report, did not, of course, know that the shooting would soon become a national story. His report is professional and objective. (There is a question, however, about whether anyone attempted to use CPR on shooting victim Walter Scott.)

The report is worth reading as a reminder about the importance of law enforcement integrity. (One more thing: I can’t resist sighing over the repeated misuse of advise, a word that should be saved for advice. The correct word is tell.) There are a few typos – not surprising when officers are under time pressure. Overall it’s a professional report.

Here’s Sergeant Gann’s report: 

ON 4/4/15 AT APPROXIMATELY 0930 HOURS I, SGT. GANN WAS CONDUCTING A TRAFFIC STOP IN THE AREA OF DORCHESTER ROAD AND SCARSDALE AVENUE. I HEAR OFFICER SLAGER, 223 CALL OUT ON A TRAFFIC STOP IN THE AREA OF REMOUNT ROAD AND CRAIG STREET. A FEW MINUTES LATER, OFFICER SLAGER ADVISED HE WAS IN A FOOT PURSUIT WITH THE DRIVER WHO WAS RUNNING DOWN CRAIG STREET TOWARD THE SINGING PINES SUBDIVISION. I HEARD OFFICER SLAGER ADVISED THE DISPATCHER THE DIRECTION OF TRAVEL AND A DESCRIPTION OF A BLACK MALE WEARING A BLUE HAT AND BLUE JEANS. I DISCONTINUED MY TRAFFIC STOP AND PROCEEDED TO OFFICER SLAGER’S LOCATION. WHILE IN ROUTE TO THE INCIDENT LOCATION, OFFICER SLAGER ADVISED THAT HE DEPLOYED HIS TASER AND REQUEST FOR BACK UP UNITS AND SECONDS LATER “SHOTS FIRED AND THE SUBJECT IS DOWN, HE TOOK MY TASER.” OFFICER HABERSHAM CHECKED OUT ON SCENE AND EMS WAS REQUESTED. OFFICER BAINES ADVISED HE WAS OUT WITH THE OFFICER SLAGER’S VEHICLE AND HAD THE PASSENGER DETAINED. I ARRIVED ON SCENE AND OBSERVED HABERSHAM WITH FIRST AID AND CPR TO THE DRIVER. WE CONTINUED TO PERFORM FIRST AID AND AND CPR UNTIL EMS ARRIVED ON SCENE. WHEN EMS AND FIRST RESPONDERS ARRIVED, EMS TOOK OVER PROVIDING CARE TO THE DRIVER, WHO WAS PRONOUNCED DECEASED A SHORT TIME LATER. DEPARTMENTAL NOTIFICATIONS WERE MADE AS WELL AS NOTIFICATIONS TO THE CHARLESTON COUNTY CORONER’S OFFICE. THE DUTY CHIEF EAND DETECTIVES ARRIVED AND TOOK COMMAND OF THE INCIDENT LOCATION. A PERIMETER WAS ESTABLISHED AROUND BOTH THE DRIVERS’ VEHICLE AND INCIDENT LOCATION. SLED WAS NOTIFIED AND RESPONDED THE INCIDENT LOCATION TO ASSUME CONTROL OF THE INVESTIGATION.

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A Harassment Complaint

 Jenelle Evans, star of Teen Mom 2, has been accused of second-degree harassment. Last month a former friend told police that she had broken off her friendship with Evans – but phone calls and texts kept coming. On March 17, Evans allegedly sent an insulting Facebook message to this woman and made an indirect threat.

Jenelle Evans responded by filing a report of her own, according to her lawyer. There has been no arrest. You can read the story at this link.

As I’ve often said on this blog, reading actual police reports with a critical eye is an excellent way to develop your own writing skills. Here is the police report about Jenelle Evans:

Harassment 2
My reaction: This reads like a traditional police report. It’s thorough, coherent, and objective – and excessively wordy. 

Here’s how I would rewrite it more concisely:

On 03-17-2015 at approximately 2220 hours, I was dispatched to the this address for a harassment complaint. I talked to the victim, who stated that she broke off her friendship with the subject, but the subject continued to call and send texts. The victim has blocked the subject’s phone number and blocked it again when the subject used a different number. She has tried to cut all ties with the subject since early January. On 03-17-2015, the subject sent the victim a long message on Facebook calling her a XXXX and a XXXX. The subject did not directly threaten the victim in any way but did indirectly threaten the victim’s way of income through her business [state what the threat was]. The victim wants the subject to stop contacting her because she no longer wishes to have any type of relationship with her. No other information is available.

If you’re curious about the reasons for the changes, here are some comments from me. (What do you think? What changes would you make, and why?)

Harassment edited

HARASSMENT 3

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Proposed Delaware Law Will Require Sexual Assault Reporting

 A bi-partisan group of women legislators is planning to introduce a Delaware law that will require Delaware universities to report sexual assaults to law enforcement agencies outside the college. They will also be required to publish annual statistics about campus sexual assaults. Rep. Kim Williams, D-Newport, House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Delaware City, and Sen. Karen Peterson, D-Stanton, plan to sponsor the legislation.

You can read more about the proposed law at this link.

Stop Rape Sign Painted, Open Hand Raised.

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London Police Fail to Investigate Reports of Rape

It’s 2015, and women have successfully been demanding better protection against sexual assault for many years. But much remains to be done, and not just in the US.

A recent story in London’s Daily Mirror claims that some officers with the Metropolitan Police have “appalling” attitudes towards victims of rape. The report also notes that the Sapphire rape unit is woefully underfunded. An internal investigation of police practices was scheduled to be published but has been shelved because of an upcoming election.

From the Daily Mirror article:

-One officer told the report’s author Dame Elish Angiolini that he was ­investigating the rape of 40 victims but “only believed one of them.”

-A source said: “This is a damning report that basically says police don’t believe rape victims. Dame Elish wanted to use that quote prominently but officers are lobbying to keep it out.”

-“The whole thing’s a mess.”

The uproar began with a case brought by two women who reported that they’d been  raped by cab driver John Worboys. Because police did not believe the story, he was able to rape additional women. In February, a high court ruled that police were legally required to investigate rape allegations.

180px-Met_Police_Blue_Lamp

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Problems with Incomplete Police Data

The D.C. Office of the Attorney General is reviewing about 14,000 criminal and juvenile cases related to Metropolitan Police reports filed since January 2012. According to a March 29 story in the Washington Times, there’s a problem in the data management system used by the Metropolitan Police. Defense attorneys have complained that they’re receiving incomplete reports from the police department. Examples include missing suspect descriptions and witness accounts from police reports .

Attorney General Karl Racine declined to say how many cases have been dismissed. But the problem is big enough to require outside help. Defense attorney Habib Ilahi of the law firm of Schertler and Onorato is joining the office for 13 months to assist in the review.

Prosecutors are required by law to share with defendants any evidence that could be favorable to their case. Officials are worried that flaws in the police data system could have caused prosecutors to withhold evidence from defendants.

“It’s unlikely that we’re talking about problems in the thousands at all,” Racine said on Friday. “But in order to make sure that folks have the full benefit of their constitutional rights, we’re going to reach out to every criminal defendant who was adjudicated by prosecutors in the Office of the Attorney General.”

Another problem is that printouts from the data system are bulky and unmanageable, according to attorneys. Each box in a report is printed on a separate sheet of paper, creating problems when attorneys try to review them. Some reports are an inch and a half thick.

Patch_of_the_Metropolitan_Police_Department_of_the_District_of_Columbia

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Is Your Report Complete?

Every officer knows that police reports have to be complete. That sounds like an obvious principle – but defining complete can be a judgment call.

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