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Black students ask University to stop using racial descriptions in crime alerts

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Janeen Capizola
January 30, 2014

Black students and staff at the University of Minnesota have joined forces to ask that campus police discontinue using racial descriptions in school-wide crime alerts saying racial profiling of black males “inflicts negative psychological effects” on them.

Members of the “African American and African Studies, Black Faculty and Staff Association, Black Graduate and Professional Student Association, Black Men’s Forum, Black Student Union and Huntley House for African American Males” sent a letter in early December to university officials citing a November incident where campus police “wrongfully identified a student as the suspect” in an attempted robbery.

“[We] unanimously agree that campus safety should be of the UMPD’s utmost importance; however, efforts to reduce crime should never be at the expense of our Black men, or any specific group of people likely to be targeted,” the letter read, according to the local CBS News affiliate. “In addition to causing Black men to feel unsafe and distrusted, racial profiling is proven to inflict negative psychological effects on its victims.”

Ian Taylor, Jr., president of the Black Men’s Forum said Wednesday at a meeting that crime alerts with the repeated wording of “black, black, black suspect…really discomforts the mental and physical comfort for students on campus because they feel like suspicions begin to increase.”

The letter outlined 12 suggested recommendations, including requiring officers with the University of Minnesota Police Department to “attend diversity training,” the CBS report said.

On Tuesday, after announcing that robberies “in and around” the campus have increased “27 percent over the last few years,” Pamela Wheelock, vice president of University Services, responded in writing to the group’s concerns, but disagreed with the recommendations to remove racial descriptions in campus crime alerts.

According to the article:

I am concerned that members of your organizations and others in the University community believe there to be an increase in racial profiling. As I stated earlier profiling will not be tolerated on campus. If there is a concern or complaint about University police practices, both Chief Hestness and I are committed to investigating the matter promptly and thoroughly.

I firmly believe that a well-informed community is an asset to public safety…I believe that sharing more information in our Crime Alerts, not less, is most beneficial in terms of public safety, especially when that information is available.

The information we share can include a complete description of suspects, unique identifying characteristics such as an accent or a distinctive piece of clothing, or the description of vehicles involved.

We have reviewed what other Big Ten Universities and local colleges and universities include, and our practice of including the race of a suspect when it is available from a victim’s description is consistent with their practices.

This article was posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 1:02 pm

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