An Arizona Spanish-language radio station is blasting a local police department for what it says is racial profiling: describing the suspect in a series of child rapes as "Hispanic."
Police are offering $25,000 for any information leading to an arrest in the case of the "Chandler Rapist," who began assaulting victims in Chandler, Ariz., in June 2006.
The suspect is described as Hispanic, 28 to 40 years old, short with a muscular build, dark hair and hazel or brown eyes.
Phoenix news talk radio station, KNUV 1190 AM, has complained to the police department about the description, claiming that "Hispanic" refers to an ethnicity, not a race.
"Hispanic could be white, it could be black, it could be dark-skinned complexion," said Mayra Nieves, vice president of programming. "We Hispanics see it that way."
Police won't budge. They say they are following normal procedures for releasing information based on victims' descriptions. Five victims between the ages of 12 and 14 have described their assailant as Hispanic.
The rapist usually strikes in the morning, when his victims' parents, usually a single mother or father, leave for work. The rapist attacks when he knows the parent won't be home, threatening his victims with a weapon before he sexually assaults them, said police spokesman Sgt. Rick Griner.
"We are not racially profiling anybody or anything," said Griner. "For us to change or alter or omit, that is irresponsible on our part. The common goal is to catch this predator and get him off the street."
Nieves said the current police description limits the station's ability to give its listeners specifics about the suspect.
"We need specific descriptions because we are radio," she said.
Nieves said using the term Hispanic is not only racial profiling, but also stereotyping.
The complaint from the radio station is the only the department received, Griner said.
"They are wanting a skin color. How do you classify a skin color?" Griner said. "What might be dark to me might not be dark to you. We're going off what [the victims] are telling us."
The American Civil Liberties Union said the the suspect's description is not racial profiling. It said if police used race as the sole factor in describing the suspect, that could be racial profiling.
"They are using concrete information to follow up leads," said Alessandra Soler Meetze, a spokeswoman for the ACLU Phoenix chapter.
An attack last Thursday, believed to be that of the same rapist, occurred when an intruder broke into a home and attacked a 15-year-old girl after her father went to work.