Sacramento Paper Reviews Policy On Citing Suspects’ Race


One of the Sacramento Bee’s most controversial practices has been when and how the paper identifies the race of suspects in crime stories. The paper allows the use of race only when it is accompanied by a detailed physical description or when reporting a serial crime or when using police sketches of suspects. The bar was set high to avoid racial stereotyping caused by vague or unreliable racial descriptions provided by police, crime victims, or witnesses. The policy is under review after the killing of a young father and his 7-month-old son and the paper’s reluctance until several days had passed to provide racial descriptions of the suspects, says public editor Armando Acuna.

Executive Editor Rick Rodriguez is leaning toward allowing the use of race as part of a general description of suspects. The Bee finds itself in the weird position of adhering to its policy at the same time its readers are posting online comments at providing the racial descriptions of the suspects taken from information released by the sheriff. Other local media outlets are disseminating the racial descriptions.”It is apparent that The Bee is more interested in political correctness rather than trying to assist the community [] in solving this tragic, violent crime,” read one of many critical online postings. In the current case, the descriptions of the two suspects provided early on by authorities were as follows: “a black male adult wearing a black hooded sweat shirt (and) a Hispanic male adult wearing a green shirt and a green Oakland A’s hat.” That’s a description that could cover thousands of black and Hispanic men in the region.


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