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Posted on Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 3:26 p.m.

U-M students protest racial descriptions in crime alerts at town hall meeting

By Staff

Students and others raised concerns about racial descriptions included in University of Michigan crime alerts at a “town hall” meeting Friday, The Michigan Daily reported.

At the meeting, led by Rackham Graduate School student David Green, philosophy Prof. Elizabeth Anderson said race doesn’t add any useful information to the description of suspects, The Daily reported.

But Department of Public Safety Chief Greg O’Dell said federal law requires the University of Michigan to include all information, including race, in crime alerts.



Mon, Dec 5, 2011 : 1:34 p.m.

Unfortunately, a description of any one individuals will include all aspects of their description, including the color of skin. It is a physical description.


Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 1:48 a.m.

Just goes to show book smarts don't make you a genius. Nor does it help you survive in the streets.


Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 1:24 a.m.

Talk of crime and descriptions have got me thinking. Back in my younger days, I did some minor prank stuff that I must now atone for. Therefore, I'm turning myself in. My PC correct likeness and description is immediately to the left of this post.


Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 12:32 a.m.

I'm not sure which group of people are worse -- people who have no idea that they are completely out of touch with reality, or people who think the ramblings of the first group are somehow worthy of print.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 10:03 p.m.

To say that race does not add anything to the description is like saying sex adds nothing. It is a specific identifying attribute of a individual person. CRIME ALERT Be on the look out for a person that robbed someone. LOL. What is wrong with people???


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 8:35 p.m.

Haters gonna hate!


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 10:01 p.m.

Preyers gonna predate!


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 7:37 p.m.

Well, at least this article gave us all a good laugh.

Alex Brown

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 6:37 p.m.

Crime? What crime? Who is it to say it was a crime? Crimes are violations of a moral code. Just because it is wrong in YOUR moral code doesn't mean it is universally wrong. There is no such thing as a crime! Eliminate all the police! Eliminate all the judges! Eliminate all the lawyers! Eliminate all the jails! Eliminate all the prisons! Just think of all the money that would be saved. POWER TO THE PEOPLE! OCCUPY EVERYTHING!


Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 6:26 a.m.

The sad thing is, it's not clear whether you're actually joking or not.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 5:55 p.m.

I don't understand how you are supposed to describe what the perp looked like without giving a skin color or race. People cannot be on the lookout unless they know what a person looks like, and race is part of that. Just because unintelligent people place stereotypes with these descriptions is not a reason to jeopardize the crime solving process.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 5:13 p.m.

I think identifying height and weight makes people who are excessively tall or short, or fat or skinny, feel bad too. Why can't we just stop at identifying whether or not the suspect is a human being?

Ron Granger

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 3:48 p.m.

As a man, I think it is wrong to include GENDER in crime reports! I feel stereotyped each time I see a crime report that mentions the suspect is male. We should outlaw this practice!

Jimmy McNulty

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 12:30 p.m.

"..philosophy Prof. Elizabeth Anderson said race doesn't add any useful information to the description of suspects." Really? Really? Let's say this prof was mugged. Would she refuse to divulge the mugger's race if it could be easily identified? No, let's send our police and citizens on a scavenger hunt.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 7:31 p.m.

But she can't be mugged, the U is a magical place where the banning of lawful people keeps predators out. Such a happy place...regardless of the countless stories on this blog


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 4:17 a.m.

It's one thing when a witness is able to provide some extremely specific information about the suspect, it's another when all that he can can tell us is that " the suspect is between 5'10 and 6'2, approximately 160 pounds, and black." While it may not be true that "race doesn't add anything to the description," I think that it is true that the descriptions themselves don't serve their purpose i.e, they don't help police apprehend the suspect. They do, however, contribute to the fundamental attribution bias: "When a white man commits a crime, it must be an isolated incident; when a black man commits a crime, he is just doing what he does best." Think for a second, those of you who receive the DPS crime alerts. Were you surprised that there were actually more white suspects than black suspects? Is that what you would have guessed? Even though there were actually fewer black suspects, each of those incidents reconfirmed an existing stereotype—thus, the reputation of the black man is damaged. Since the stereotype of "the white criminal" doesn't exist, you dismissed—and forgot—all of the alerts that identified white suspects. Recognize your biases; that's what educated people ought to do. Prof. Anderson's point is this: adding "black" to the description, when the description does not contain more specific information, does not help police (or anyone else) identify the suspect. It does, however, perpetuate a negative stereotype. So why add "black" to the description?

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 10:47 p.m.

Robert...When a man and other witnesses say he was attacked by 5 black men, the citizens and police can keep an eye open, and if they see a group of white or asian men or black women, they can go on by. Common sense.


Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 12:39 a.m.

Robert, I strongly suggest you call your local police department and request two or three citizen ride-alongs. Your musings have zero basis in fact, and do nothing other than reveal your own bias. Perhaps the fantasy you posted above is the first thing you think when you read crime stats or descriptions, but I assure you your prejudice is not universal. If the "stereotype of the white criminal doesn't exist," perhaps you might explain the overwhelming white male appearance of pedophiles and mass murders? Please become acquainted with the facts of life, soon.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 10:36 p.m.

I'm surprised my comment was removed. All I mentioned was that there are less black perpetrators than white perpetrators for just about every crime except murder - that's straight from the FBI. Every bit of information you can use is helpful. Why should race be the one piece you can't use? How does that help eliminate stereotypes - especially when more perpetrators are white than black? So the policy proposal actually would increase stereotyping of black people. Also, an alert is not an invitation to call the police if your neighbor happens to match the description. If you were near the area of the crime and someone acting suspiciously matched that description, then you might call the police.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 6:38 p.m.

To which "list" do you refer? There's no list. Telling us to notify police if we see a "6ft black male between the ages of 18-25" is ineffective. The resources of DPS and AAPD are limited. If the victim/witnesses cannot provide more descriptive information or there is no photo or composite sketch, then searching for one of the thousands of people who match the descriptions provided by DPS is about as effective as providing no description at all. And it perpetuates a stereotype in the process. It is just pointless.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 2:05 p.m.

You add black to the description, because, voila! it eliminates every white person from the list. Why is this so difficult to understand?


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 5:01 a.m.

You add black to the description when that's what the perpetrator was. Are we at the point where just mentioning what race someone is, is considered stereotyping?


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 2:25 a.m.

And furthermore, what do these students know about life? Do they have children who could be hurt by these perps, no. They're too busy going to their drunken parties and holding useless meetings like this one.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 10:42 p.m.

Gosh...there they go again, living their own lives and not conforming to the tea attitudes.

Hot Sam

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 2 a.m.

What this tells me is that professor Anderson should be in a different line of work...


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 1:24 a.m.

This goes into " the world done gone crazy" category. So....can I bring about a lawsuit when a crime is committed against me and I couldn't protect myself from a serial criminal because law enforcement was not allowed to provide a description? Complete nonsense!

Hubert Smith '60

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 1:17 a.m.

I can see it now: "The rape suspect of a provocatively-dressed white sorority girl was a man or woman, wearing a green "JayZ Rules" hoodie, pants' waist was at mid-thigh level, and red baseball cap at a 45-degree angle askew, cap logo appeared to be that of Oakland Raiders or Biggie Smalls." Gimme a frickin' break.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 1:06 a.m.

This might be the most cynical proposal I've ever heard. Don't people like this understand that their attempts to protect African Americans lead to more stereotyping down the road?


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 12:38 a.m.

Never thought I would see a left-wing opinion that the usual suspects wouldn't support, but they would be fools to show up here. Whatever this professor gets paid, it is waaaaay too much.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 2:33 a.m.

Her salary is $153,500: <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;LName=anderson&amp;Year=0&amp;Campus=0</a>


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 12:49 a.m.

And I can think of at least one person who will find a way to pin this on Snyder, lol.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 12:27 a.m.

People planning on moving to our fine community should be required to read stuff like this they get SOME idea of what they are in for.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 10:39 p.m.

If you dislike it so much, why not hit the road? People can think, you know. In fact, the sensitivity of the people in A2 is one of its great draws.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 7:35 p.m.

Don't forget the city too....

J. A. Pieper

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 12:39 a.m.

And thy need to be informed that the local school district follows this same philosophy for political correctness!


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 12:24 a.m.

Race is not always easy to ascertain, but to just describe an attacker (or whatever) as a 6' male is pretty useless. Would it be ok to pick out skin color from a color ramp? just now has a story on a groper who was caught. In that case, they had pretty good camera images of him. Camera images are much better clues for the public, but when they aren't available, I think we need some additional clues.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 10:38 p.m.

leezee...I don't get your point. Clues are definitely for crimes. No clues means no solving of the crime.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 1:13 a.m.

Clues are for games. Crime is not a game.

Bill Wilkins

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 11:35 p.m.

Dumb ???? When it comes to liberalism, I am astounded how dumb things can get. It's like saying that you can't tell the police what color car was involved in a hit and run accident because it might offend someone driving the same color vehicle. It's liberalism at it's most absurd. But then again it's Ann Arbor ..what else can one expect ???

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 10:36 p.m.

Yeah, I know what you mean, Bill. Like the conservative attitude that, when we have enough government income to start seriously paying down the national debt, the best course of action is to create huge tax cuts and start two wars. I know what you mean. Only in tea world.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 11:34 p.m.

You have to take the good with the bad. If you want Black History Month, and want to extoll the merits of incredible black men and women, then that's wonderful. But then, to turn around and say that you can't identify a few rotten apples (who happen to be black) is inconsistent and disengenuous.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 11:25 p.m.

Why do you think I don't contribute a dime to the U of M. All these great scholarly ideas they put out.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 10:32 p.m.

Painting with a pretty wide brush, aren't you? Are you totally anti-academic, or anti-intellectual, or do you think there might be some good ideas in such a huge and highly-regarded institution as the University of Michigan? Not everyone associated with the U. is a ninnyhammer. In fact, my experience has been that most families and other groups have some ninnies, too, but as with the U., I find these to be an extremely small minority. (Apologies to Ninnyhammers for drawing attention to their special characteristics.)

Kai Petainen

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 10:59 p.m.

They might as well remove 'sex' as well. It's not nice to discriminate on that. Don't forget height as well. &quot;The apparent crime was committed by a person. We have no further details to offer.&quot;


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 10:54 p.m.

Outstanding. Let's let Professor Anderson run AAPD and DPS' investigative units from now on. Clearly she has a better understanding of how to engage the public's help in identifying and investigating criminal suspects without hurting anybody's feelings or egos. After all, if you sit around and think of something that should work in theory, it should work in practice, right? From now on all crime alerts will contain the description, &quot;...and he looked like a man...&quot;


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 10:56 p.m.

Oops, I guess that won't work; it's sexist against men. How about, &quot;...the suspect looked like a human being...&quot;? Wait, no, that discriminates against furries. What a philosophical conundrum. No wonder a philosophy academic is involved.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 10:54 p.m.

This reads like an article from The Onion.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 10:05 p.m.

thats exactly what I thought on the first read through, with my mouth hanging open,lol

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 10:38 p.m.

I have a tip for these people.... if people of any particular race decided not to engage in crime, the frequency with which their race is mentioned in crime reports will decrease. It's really that simple.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 10:36 p.m.

We should stop identifying them by gender as well then. It might wind up damaging the reputations of men. I hope she's better at philosophy than she is at critical thinking!


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 6:50 p.m.

Me too, but I know how I'd bet.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 10:33 p.m.

How absurd. How did we get to the point we can't even identify a criminal/suspect by race when it is a major point to identifying a person.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 10:19 p.m.

It's discriminatory because it consistently shows that black men are arrested more often than other groups. Thus, we are selecting out because of race. If we don't say anything, no one will know.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 10:12 p.m.

Me thinks someone should call the PC Police and put them in for an award - wait, how would I describe them?


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 10:03 p.m.

"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." Just a paragraph or two earlier, it appears that 11 of the perps were identified as white males, 5 black males. So much for that theory, professor.

Marilyn Wilkie

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 9:58 p.m.

I totally agree with every comment that was made before me.

Anonymous academician

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 9:57 p.m.

One more misguided application of political correctness, distilled through contemporary philosophy that claims the virtuality and social origin of categories and concepts that should help us make sense of the world around us. What about depictions of perpetrators by gender, as gender is not only a socially construed category, but is also discriminatory. Men should justifiably feel offended at police warnings which targets THEM as perpetrators of majority of crimes, especially muggings and rapes. Thinking of it, ageism is likewise discriminatory and socially unacceptable. We must really protest any descriptions whatsoever!


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 9:42 p.m.

I agree with the students. The crime alerts could just say: &quot;Something bad happened somewhere. Be alert. Or not.&quot;


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 6:48 p.m.

Careful, you may be recruited to be the next Public Safety Chief, or philosophy professor.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 6:28 p.m.

ha ha ha. Love it!


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 11:30 p.m.



Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 9:01 p.m.

According to Prof. Anderson: "It reinforces the legitimacy of spreading stereotypes and damages the reputation of black men." As far as I can see, the only ones damaging the reputations of black men are black men who engage in criminal behavior. The same can be said for any race.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 9:01 p.m.

Wow, and I have a kid at this university? How far removed are these &quot;scholars&quot; from the real world?

Jacob Bodnar

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 8:49 p.m.

This may be one of the dumbest things I've ever heard


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 8:43 p.m.

Race is an identifying physical characteristic. It is absurd to claim that police should not use race to help the public keep an eye out for the bad guys.