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Teaching Deadly Force: Collaborative Dynamics and the Rhetoric of Police Policy

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1 Author(s)
Knievel, M. ; Univ. of Wyoming, Laramie

After the controversial police shooting of a developmentally-disabled African-American teenager in July 2003, the new mayor of Denver, CO, appointed a politically diverse task force to revise the police department's use-of-force policy and propose a new model for police oversight. This teaching case is based on the task force's deliberations and collaborative efforts to build policy consensus in a sometimes rancorous, high-stakes environment. In it, I reconstruct the story of the shooting that gave rise to the task force, trace the arc of the task force's 104-day existence, and analyze the letter and final report submitted by the task force's co-chairs to (1) demonstrate the highly-pressurized nature of policy language invention and the crucial impact of word choice in such policy, and (2) illustrate the difficulty the task force encountered in attempting to secure consensus and the manner in which the final work product acknowledges, rather than obscures, this struggle. Finally, the case includes recommended readings and a guide for individual and group activities for implementation in either an undergraduate- or graduate-level technical communication course.

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Professional Communication, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:51 ,  Issue: 1 )