Daily Archives: October 21, 2008

Suspects

Yes, we nitpick.  Darryl Carver, WAGA

Yes, we nitpick. Darryl Carver, WAGA

It’s an easy mistake to make, but it still ain’t right.  News professionals like WAGA’s Darryl Carver ought to know better:  If no person has been identified as a possible suspect in a crime, then there is no “suspect.”  There are only bad guys, crooks, attackers, gunmen, swordsmen, killers, robbers etc.

Or, to use policespeak (but please don’t):  Unidentified male subjects.   Likewise, “shooters.”  Please.  No to “shooters.”

But if they merely exist in composite sketches but without any other substantial identifying labels, then they aren’t suspects.

From a Bud Veazey memo dated May 18, 2005:

Foolish optimist that I am, I will once again try to explain the proper use of the word “suspect” in the hope that eventually someone will get it.
Police have a “suspect” when—and only when—they know, or think they know, who they are looking for. In other words, an individual has been identified as a “suspect” in the crime. If no one has been identified, THERE IS NO SUSPECT!
Take a moment and think about the logic.
Until a “suspect” has been identified, police are looking for a robber, a burglar, a purse snatcher, a rapist, a murderer, a reckless driver, a bad person, a clown, a mime, etc.
Once again, if police haven’t identified a person as a suspect, THERE IS NO SUSPECT!!

While producing two pieces Monday on a killing in Riverdale, Mr. Carver violated Mr. Veazey’s dictum five times. He referred to a composite sketch indicating the likeness of a gunman, attacker, killer. He insisted on referring to the person depicted as a “suspect.”

No.  A “suspect” has a name, or a photograph, or is a person known to the investigating agency.  “We have a suspect” means that somebody has been, or is about to get locked up.

Carver is but an unfortunate example.  He has plenty of company in Atlanta TV.