Friday, August 24, 2007

A Story of Interest

Ah, at last. Julie Poppen of the Rocky Mountain News examines one of my least-favorite coptalk expressions: "person of interest." The ambiguity of the phrase is exactly why we ought to avoid it.

'Person of interest' is a baffler
Lawyer says phrase same as 'suspect,' but police disagree

By Julie Poppen, Rocky Mountain News
Willie Clark is what the cops call a "person of interest" in the slaying of Denver Bronco Darrent Williams in the early-morning hours of New Year's Day.
Lester Ralph Jones and Rob Dixon are "persons of interest" in the case of Paige Birgfeld, who disappeared in Grand Junction on June 28.

And longtime businessman Omar Ahmad Duwaik, of Aurora, is a "person of interest" in his ex- wife's slaying in 1997.

Yet none of the four has been charged with a related offense or even named a suspect.

So what exactly is a "person of interest" in a crime?

"It's 21st century-speak for suspect," said Denver attorney Scott Robinson, who represents Rob Dixon in the Birgfield case. Robinson also writes columns on legal issues for the Rocky Mountain News.

But police say the terms aren't always interchangeable.

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