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Police press release raises questions about use of race in limited descriptions of crime suspects

When the Tiburon Police Department issued a press release after a recent robbery, details were limited. It included the color of the vehicle, though no make, model or type, such as a sedan or SUV. It included the general area of the encounter, but no specific location or context about the argument ahead of the chase. It also provided a brief suspect description — of only race and age.

Many residents reacted on social media with terror and sympathy for the teen, writing about what an awful experience it must have been and stating that no one should ever have to stare down the barrel of a gun at the hands of a stranger.

However, for others, including members and regular attendees of the Tiburon Diversity Inclusion Task Force the release raised questions about policies and best practices surrounding the reporting of race — both by police departments and the media — and their potential impact on communities when weighing public safety and seeking witness assistance against the potential of creating and advancing stereotypes.

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