U of M to limit race, ethnicity in crime descriptions

The University of Minnesota said Wednesday it will no longer provide general descriptions of those responsible for crime on campus.

In so doing, the university adopts a standard used by many news organizations which, at least by policy, doesn’t provide the race of suspects unless it actually provides some distinctive information.

Moving forward, the University will use descriptions only when there is sufficient detail that would reasonably help identify specific individual suspects or groups of suspects (e.g., some combination of gender, race, clothing, height, body type, build, accent, tattoos, hair color, facial hair).

The U of M’s chief of police and University Services leadership will decide whether to include descriptions in Crime Alerts on a case-by-case basis.

The goal is to comply with federal law and provide timely, useful, actionable information that community members can use to keep themselves safe, while reflecting the University’s commitment to ensuring a welcoming and respectful campus.

In its news release today, the U of M said changing its policy took two years to contemplate.

A review of public safety and police department websites shows that 13 of 14 Big Ten institutions include race as a descriptor in all Crime Alerts or timely warning notices. The University of Minnesota will now join the University of Maryland College Park in evaluating the use of such descriptors on a case-by-case basis.

The use of race in suspect descriptions is common among colleges and universities in the Twin Cities. While examples were not available for all area colleges and universities, Crime Alerts or timely warning notices were found on the public safety websites of the following institutions, and all included race or complexion as part of suspect descriptions: Augsburg College, Carleton College, Concordia University St. Paul, Hamline University, Macalester College, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, St. Catherine’s University, and University of St. Thomas.

Two weeks ago, more than a dozen U of M students were arrested after they took over U President Eric Kaler’s office. One of the group’s demands was eliminating the descriptions in crime alerts.

Related: Nothing PC about not routinely reporting race of a crime suspect (Houston Chronicle).