Critical Thinking: Totality of Circumstances, Third Edition
byWayne L. Davis, Paul J. Leslie & Jacquelyn L. Davis
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Misplaced and dangling modifiers
Grammar is important in police writing because an officer’s credibility is linked to his or her written reports. If police officers make mistakes in their reports, the officers should expect defense attorneys to ask them if they have performed their jobs to the best of their ability. On the one hand, if the officers claim that they have done their best work, then mistakes in their reports will make them appear incompetent or dishonest. On the other hand, if the officers claim that they have not done their best work, then mistakes in their reports will make them appear lazy and uncaring. Thus, police officers need to use proper grammar when writing police reports.
Although some mistakes in grammar may make police officers look incompetent, lazy, or dishonest in court, other mistakes in grammar may significantly change the meaning of a police report. For example, because a misplaced modifier incorrectly modifies the wrong word, and because a dangling modifier has no referent in a sentence, misplaced and dangling modifiers may alter the meaning of a sentence. Thus, adjectives and adverbs should be placed as closely as possible to the words that they are supposed to modify and active voice should be employed (American Psychological Association, 2010). This may help eliminate any unintended meanings. In this case, the police officers should expect defense attorneys to ask them if they write true and accurate reports. If the officers state that their reports are true and accurate, then the defense attorney may argue that the reports should be accepted at face value, especially if misplaced modifiers change the meaning of the police reports to mean what the defense attorneys want them to mean. However, if the officers state that their reports are not true and accurate, then the reports will have little value, the officers’ credibility will be ruined, and the officers could be criminally charged with filing false police reports.
Consider the following example. Suppose a man and his wife are at school and he tells her that he loves her.
Incorrect statement: He told his wife that he loves her at the school.
Correct statement: While at the school, he told his wife that he loves her.
The incorrect statement does not indicate that he loves his wife, but it does indicate that he loves his wife’s presence at the school. This would be appropriate, for example, if his wife worked at a school and he did not want her to quit her job and to leave the school.
Incorrect statement: Running out of gas, she walked to the gas station.
Correct statement: She walked to the gas station because her car ran out of gas.
The incorrect sentence indicates that she ran out of gas (not her car). This may imply that she was jogging, became tired, and started to walk.
Logic: Conditional Statements
Although an if-then statement may be true, the converse of an if-then statement may not necessarily be true (Smith, Eggen, & St. Andre, 2006). In other words, the converse of a conditional statement is not necessarily true. For example, research shows that aggressive behaviors in children are good predictors of adult criminality (Huesmann & Eron, 1992; Huesmann et al., 2002; Miller-Johnson et al., 2005). Thus, if aggression is present then there is crime. However, if crime is present does not necessarily mean that there is aggression (e.g., there may be other reasons why people are arrested).
Repeating an earlier example, suppose a father states to his daughter that if she behaves, then he will give her candy. Then suppose his daughter misbehaves. The only guarantee that the father made was that he will act in a certain way if his daughter behaves. However, the father never addressed what he will do if his daughter misbehaves. Thus, if his daughter misbehaves, the father’s actions will be truthful whether or not his gives his daughter candy. The father will only be untruthful if his daughter behaves and the father does not give her candy. See Table 6.
This book provides an overview of effectively understanding information. One goal of this book is for law enforcers to understand the legality of their actions via math, grammar, and logic. This book applies math and English to the law so that police officers may effectively articulate their actions in court. For example, specific laws and police actions can be evaluated via truth tables and Venn Diagrams. Some of the factors that can influence the value of information include assumptions, limitations, different lenses of truth, different ethical systems, different police department orientations, and the format in which the data are presented. For example, a suspect may attempt to mislead an officer by using existential and universal quantifiers and by using the converse of conditional statements. Another goal of this book is to apply basic math skills to common law enforcement scenarios. For example, the methods of determining angles, distances, and speeds are presented.
About the Author
Wayne L. Davis holds a bachelor of science in electrical engineering, a master of science in business administration, and a PhD in criminal justice. Dr. Davis has graduated from city, state, and federal law enforcement academies. Dr. Davis has received the US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner’s Award, the US Customs and Border Protection Scholastic Award, and he was a field-training officer with the Indiana State Police. Paul J. Leslie holds a bachelor of arts in history from Armstrong Atlantic University in Savannah, Georgia, and a doctorate in counseling psychology from Argosy University in Sarasota, Florida. Currently, Dr. Leslie serves as academic coordinator of psychology at Aiken Technical College. In addition, Dr. Leslie is a licensed counselor and a human services board certified practitioner. Jacquelyn L. Davis holds a bachelor of science in neuroscience from the University of Michigan. She has worked in the Health System Department of Neurology Laboratory at the University of Michigan, she has volunteered at the YWCA as a sexual assault advocate, and she has tutored students in the sciences. She currently works at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Michigan as a patient care assistant in surgical services in the cancer department.