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.