Today’s evidence of Seattle crazy is a new initiative by law enforcement in that city to use less “negative” terminology to describe suspects and inmates. And among the law enforcement community, it’s going over about as well as you might expect.
When Seattle police officers write use of force reports they no longer call a suspect a suspect.
“Community member” is the new term. Several officers say the term is offensive, explaining their work with violent suspects.
Maybe you’re like me and wondering what community a suspect is part of, but the semantic overcorrection doesn’t end there. Authorities are also worried about how not to offend the incarcerated with their terminology.
Last fall, the Washington Department of Corrections stopped calling inmates “offenders” and instead use the term “student.”
“The term ‘offender’ does have a negative connotation and significantly impacts a broad group of people and communities,” Acting DOC Secretary Dick Morgan wrote in an internal department memo, obtained by KIRO 7.
“Times change, and so does our language.”
However, that means Gary Ridgway — the most prolific American serial killer who said he has at least 71 victims — is no longer called an inmate or an offender. Neither are other murderers, rapists and felons.
The phase-out of the word “offender” started Nov. 1 and replaced with “individuals,” “student” or “patient,” the DOC secretary wrote to his staff.
We need to start worrying about where we are as a society if we’re concerned about how negative our language is toward people who are serving time for having committed crimes. (Also, it’s funny that someone is worrying about the word “offender” being offensive.) Of course, this thought isn’t lost on the law enforcement community, and they’re speaking out.
Kevin Stuckey, the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild president who can speak publicly, said he believes the term “community member” is too vague.
“I don’t think you should have a broad stroke like that and call everybody the same thing,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with calling someone who is a victim a victim, or calling someone who’s a suspect a suspect.”
There’s something terribly wrong when political correctness seeps into law enforcement in this way – even when it’s happening in Seattle.
Could it be that police and corrections authorities need to spend less time worrying about whether terminology offends those who commit a crime and more time making sure said crimes don’t get committed? Playing Orwellian word games with police parlance doesn’t merely come across as counterproductive; it just seems wrong.