Robbie Austin, Michigan Daily, November 13, 2011
The issue of racial profiling in University crime alerts took center stage at a University town hall meeting on Friday.
University students and Ann Arbor residents gathered at the University Law School to discuss the relation of safety, campus climate and diversity on campus. The event–chaired by Rackham student David Green, the political action chair of Students of Color of Rackham–focused on racism and social justice at the University, with an emphasis on racial profiling.
One of the key issues discussed was the use of racial descriptions in the University’s Department of Public Safety crime alerts. Of the 22 crime alerts released by DPS between Jan. 1, 2011 and Nov. 9, 2011, 12 incidents occurred off campus and nine took place on campus, according to data released by DPS. Of these 22 alerts, 11 specifically identified the skin color of the suspect as white, five as black, one as darker skinned, one as hispanic, one as tan, one as olive and two had no race information.
Philosophy Prof. Elizabeth Anderson said information about race is not needed in crime alerts because it doesn’t add any information to the description.
“There is no value added in the description (of race),” Anderson said. “It reinforces the legitimacy of spreading stereotypes and damages the reputation of black men.”
The speakers argued that racial descriptors apply to broad groups of people on campus and therefore generate fear of these groups. Anderson said innocent people fitting the racial description are negatively impacted by the wording in DPS alerts.
DPS Chief Greg O’Dell then addressed the crowd and pointed out that the University must adhere to federal requirements when issuing crime alerts. The guidelines mandate the inclusion of “all information that would promote safety and that would aid the prevention of similar crimes,” the guidelines state.