U of M removes racial descriptions from crime alerts – unless it's likely to ID suspect

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The University of Minnesota will stop using racial descriptions of suspects in its campus crime alerts after complaints it "reinforces negative stereotypes" of people of color.

New guidelines for the crime alerts announced by President Eric Kaler announced new guidelines for its crime alert Wednesday state that descriptions of race will only be included in the public announcements if the information is likely to lead to the identification of a suspect who presents a risk to people.

But, "where the information is too general to advance that goal, we will note that only a limited description of the suspect(s) is available," he added in a letter to staff and students.

According to the Pioneer Press, around 30 percent of the crime alerts released by the U since 2012 would not have enough information about a suspect to warrant the person's race being identified under the new rules.

The move follows an extensive study by university services vice president Pamela Wheelock into the issue of using racial descriptors on the alerts.

"For some, knowing they have all the information available about a crime, including the complete suspect description, makes them feel better informed and increases how safe they feel," Wheelock said in a news release.

"But others – particularly Black men – have shared that suspect descriptions negatively impact their sense of safety. They express concern that Crime Alerts that include race reinforce stereotypes of Black men as threats and create a hostile campus climate."

Sit-in protest

The use of racial descriptors was one of the issues brought to Kaler's attention by the student group Whose Diversity?, which staged a sit-in at his office earlier this month in which 13 were arrested.

In Wednesday's letter, Kaler said he was "moved by the personal experiences" conveyed to him during the sit-in.

Whose Diversity? told FOX 9 that the change in policy is not enough to improve conditions for people of color on the Twin Cities campus, saying the changes "are merely bread crumbs meant to pacify dissent and halt further actions toward justice."

"Moderate concessions are not enough to ensure the safety of students of color on this campus, and Whose Diversity? will not stop calling for substantive change until justice is served," they added.

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