From the Twin Cities Pioneer Press:
Amid race concerns, UMN curtails crime suspect descriptions
By JOSH VERGES |
PUBLISHED: February 24, 2015 at 11:01 pm
The University of Minnesota no longer will include race and other descriptions of suspects in email crime alerts, unless there is enough detail to aid in an arrest.
Federal law requires that colleges and universities give timely warnings about serious safety threats on campus, but critics say the U’s routine use of racial descriptors in crime alerts has made campus unwelcoming and less safe for people of color.
University President Eric Kaler agreed, although for some, the change in practice does not go far enough.
In a letter Wednesday to faculty, staff and students, Kaler said he has been persuaded that suspect descriptions “may unintentionally reinforce racist stereotypes of black men and other people of color as criminals and threats.”
Officials now plan to provide no description of a suspect unless “there is sufficient detail that would help identify a specific individual or group.”
A review of 51 crime alerts since 2012 found that suspect descriptions in 15 cases would not have met the new criteria. …
So the change isn’t as extremist as it might sound initially.
Kaler said the crime-alert issue has come up in conversations about campus safety over the past 18 months and that he’s been “moved by the personal experiences conveyed to me.”
The change will help make the U a “welcoming and diverse campus,” he said. …
Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the U’s journalism school, said the new practice is similar to the judgment news organizations make when deciding whether to publicize a suspect’s description.