Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Remarkable?

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Halo

Listening to a promo for an interview between Dave Miller on OPB’s “Think OutLoud” and incoming and outgoing Portland police chiefs, I was struck by something outgoing Chief Mike Reese said.  Mr. Miller asked him if he has seen a change in the use of force by Portland police during his more than four year tenure.  Paraphrasing Mr. Reese, he said he has seen a remarkable drop in force related incidents by the police against Portland’s citizens.

His use of the word, “remarkable” was what got my attention.  The definition of remarkable is “worthy of being or likely to be noticed, especially as being uncommon  or extraordinary”.  I think the first part of the definition applies.  The drop in the use of force by Portland police, if it has in fact occurred, is certainly worth noticing.  But the second part of the definition was bothersome.

“Uncommon” means “not ordinarily encountered” with a second definition being “remarkable and exceptional”.  Meanwhile “extraordinary” means “going beyond what is usual, regular or customary”.  Its second definition uses “remarkable” as a synonym.

I think you can see the problem here.

If Portland’s outgoing police chief considers “remarkable” the drop in the use of force by the Portland police, it makes me wonder what he and the Portland police consider “routine” treatment of those same citizens.  In other words, how rare should this be?  I mean, shouldn’t it be “remarkable” when an incident occurs rather than when one doesn’t occur?  To call a drop in the occurrence of something toxic “remarkable” implies that the drop was never expected and is, in fact, surprising.  And that speaks volumes to the problems currently orbiting police culture across the country.  This is one of those situations where I would’ve liked to see the interviewer ask what “remarkable” meant in that context.

And to that sentiment, I want to use an antonym.

Pitiful.

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