Friday, December 26, 2008


It would be great if media people could define the terms they use everyday so they don't confuse viewers, listeners and readers when those terms are used ambiguously.
Case in point: "Police Killing".
Now when you hear that term, what's the first thing that comes to mind? For us it's the image of dozens of heavily armed, black or blue-clad police officers speeding into a community, jumping out of jeeps and shooting up the place, leaving bodies and angry residents in their wake.
What does NOT come to mind though is an off duty police officer in plain clothes cutting grass, getting into an argument with three people and subsequently shooting them, leaving one dead.
Suffice it to say that this little lesson is purely for the benefit of TV6's Sharmilla Persad.
Miss Persad's lead story on Christmas night was titled "Police Killing"....a police officer shoots a man dead in Arima and injures his mother and brother. There was no indication in the lead up to that packaged story that the officer was off duty (or a private citizen at the time) and that the incident was a personal dispute. You gave your viewers the distinct impression that this policeman went into the area with his colleagues (perhaps on a raid) and shot up the place, leaving one man dead, when nothing could be further from the truth. Steups!

Here's how Angelo Marcelle of the Guardian opens his story: "One man is dead and his mother and brother are in critical condition after being shot by a policeman during a dispute, yesterday."
Gyasi Gonzales of the Express begins his story by telling us: "AN enraged senior police officer shot and killed a father of seven, and wounded the dead man's mother and brother during an argument."
So as they begin their stories they tell us a police officer is involved, but they dispel any doubt that this incident took place in the line of duty.
Here's an article in the Newsday of what can truly be described as "police killings".

So now that we have the technical terms out of the way, it's time for us to once again look at the variations in the facts of a story.
Mr Gonzales tells us: "The incident occurred around 10 a.m. yesterday at Demerara Road, Arima. The off-duty superintendent was clearing some bush off a portion of land when he got into an argument with Ashley Charles, 27, who lived nearby, a police report said. Near to Charles were his mother, Joan Charles, 44, and his brother, Macay, 22."
Yet Mr Marcelle's account of the incident is this: "Reports stated that around 8.30 am an off-duty officer was cleaning bushes at his Arima home when he was accused of crossing a boundary and entering another yard. Investigators said Francesca Charles, 49, confronted him about coming into her land. Residents said an argument escalated between the two, when the officer pulled out his firearm and shot the women (sic) in the chest. On hearing the commotion, Charles’ two sons, Ashley, 25, and Mark, rushed to the scene and they, too, were allegedly shot by the officer, residents claimed."