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.

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About live apt fire

Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

5 thoughts on “Suspects

  1. spaceyg

    Holy Cow Batman! Six swordsmen just flew down Howell Mill Road! Sabers at the ready. To the Batmobile! Or maybe we’ll all get raptured before they get to Centennial Park!

  2. Dirty Laundry

    At least the reporter did not refer to the sketched person as a “gentleman.” So many (mostly the general public, MOS, etc.) refer to a suspected killer, robber, rapist or whatever as “gentleman.” Gimmie a break!


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