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A Need for Improved Descriptions of Suspects

September 01, 2003

Re "One Crime, a Million 'Hispanic' Suspects," Commentary, Aug. 26: I read the article with the same amount of consternation with which it was written. I have lived in L.A. all my life and still can't understand why there are the often-used ethnic descriptions of "Latino/Latina," "Hispanic," etc. I understand Luis Torres' complaint when he says why not describe height, weight, eye color, type of vehicle, direction of flight, etc. Unfortunately for the police, no two people are exactly alike even if they are from the same ethnic group, gene pool, etc. Better detail on crime perpetrators would help the general public in helping the police, instead of saying a generic "Hispanic" or "Latino" male is being sought by the police.

As an individual who is in the construction business in the Southland, I can say that it might be a good idea for those promulgating ethnic stereotypes to cruise Los Angeles County once in a while. They might be surprised to note that the vast majority of people who live here don't resemble Euro-Caucasians, especially in construction. They are from every corner of the globe. Which makes the point of Torres' article even more poignant for the police. Drop the ethnic and prejudiced baloney and get the physical description correct so you can catch the criminal.

Walt Brennan Jr.



Though I can understand what Torres is highlighting in his article, and though I think it's admirable of his employer to not mention the race or ethnicity of a suspect unless it is relevant to the story, police still need generalized descriptors to identify suspects. For quick identification of a generalized nature, we tend to use the lowest common denominator to describe a person. This is also used to exclude other persons who do not fit the description of the person sought.

Torres is absolutely correct in pointing out that the descriptors "male, Hispanic" can include a million men in Los Angeles. At least it excludes Asians, blacks, Anglos and, possibly, Native Americans. Although it's not the best possible descriptor, it does suffice.

So, if Torres can come up with something as descriptive without using the word "Hispanic," maybe the descriptor will be changed to reflect more sensitivity but still identify the general common denominator that describes the person being sought.

Wade Steinfeld

Valley Glen

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