Police-involved shooting

"Police-involved shooting. That’s the phrase I can’t stand."

Having spent much of the past 25 years working alongside of and for cops and reporters, there’s a term I’ve come to loathe as loaded and devoid of meaning.

Police-involved shooting.

That’s the phrase I can’t stand.

News stories have been full of the term for days, on the heels of a bloody October Monday in the Valley. The gunfire commenced in Tempe at 3 p.m. Oct. 29, as two female officers served an order of protection on a nutcase who earlier had assaulted his girlfriend.

Said beau opened fire, striking one cop in the arm and the other in the arm, shoulder and bulletproof vest. One officer returned fire, hitting the shooter. He was later discovered dead in the home.

One officer required surgery. Fortunately, both women will recover fully.

An hour later, the action shifted to downtown Mesa, where cops were summoned to investigate a suspicious man, possibly armed, driving a white pickup. The man drove off; police followed by cruiser and helicopter. As the suspect neared downtown, Phoenix police and Department of Public Safety troopers joined the pursuit.

The suspect’s car was rammed and stopped. That was when 27-year-old Arnaldo Caraveo, a convicted burglar and thug, opened fire on law enforcement with a rifle in the middle of Interstate 17.

Flying glass lacerated two troopers. They will be okay.

Caraveo will not; he was shot dead.

Depending on which local news organization you believe, Monday’s incidents brought the total number of “police-involved shootings” in Maricopa County to 70 or 71 for the year. As every news outlet is quick to trumpet, this pace appears to be “record-setting” – there were only 43 such shootings last year – though such “records” appear to have been kept only since 2013, and only by reporters who basically are making up these stats as they go along.

The same inventiveness is shared by so-called “civil rights groups,” many of whom have predictably blamed police for this bloodshed.

In Phoenix in late August, protesters from Puente Human Rights Movement descended on City Council to decry that city’s approximately 40 police-involved shootings.

“These people are not just numbers: They’re our family. They’re our neighbors. They are the people that we love,” said Maria Castro, a Puente demonstrator. “City Council, the blood is on your hands. This is your responsibility. You are paying these people to murder the citizens of this city.”

Personally? I believe that the Valley does indeed have an epidemic afoot – of “suspected criminal involved shootings.”

Time and again this year, armed bad actors have essentially committed suicide by cop, choosing to put police officers in life-threatening situations, dangerous moments that, by law, make the suspects vulnerable to lethal force.

Does this apparent rise in aggression excuse conduct by police officers who step outside the law and shoot too soon or without provocation? Of course not. On the comparatively rare occasion police officers go rogue, they should be fired and prosecuted, if subsequent investigation and the facts determine they have acted illegally.

There should be no special treatment, not for cops and not for the Arnaldo Caraveos of the world.

Which is precisely why I object to the term “police-involved shooting.” Is it semantically accurate? I suppose so, in the same way that calling a marriage between a man and a woman a “bride-involved relationship” is accurate.

It takes a minimum of two to tango when it comes to shootings like those we witnessed on bloody Monday. Calling such incidents “police-involved shootings” makes it sound like innocent citizens these days serve as ducks in a shooting gallery.

In 2018, I believe it’s cops who have become fodder, not the other way around.

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