|SAM BERUBE / HERALD|
The police department promises to include other identifying profiles such as age and gender.
The concession follows a protest by students.
The school is located in Providence, RI.
The Department of Public Safety has altered its policy on racial descriptions for crime alerts over the past year, excluding suspects’ race in every campus alert since October 2015.
In an email to The Herald, Chief of Police Mark Porter and Deputy Chief of Police Paul Shanley maintained that this does not constitute a policy change, though nearly all publicly available crime alerts before that date mention a suspect’s race to some degree.
“We have no formal Department of Public Safety policy in place that either prohibits the inclusion of race or mandates that race be included in suspect descriptions,” Porter and Shanley wrote. As a matter of practice, the department includes the categorization only when there is certainty with regard to race or if it “adds value as part of a complete and thorough description” of a suspect, they added.
With race excluded, notifications typically include a suspect’s gender, age, build and general appearance.
Using a suspect’s race in a crime alert may be unnecessary for a number of reasons, including possible confusion in racial identification and the fact that “vague descriptions can reinforce stereotypes,” Porter and Shanley wrote. These stereotypes can foster hostility toward some members of the community, they added.
Several students called for the exclusion of race in DPS reports during negotiations surrounding the Diversity Inclusion Action Plan last year. In addition, race has proven problematic as an identifier in several instances at schools across the country — most notably at Yale, where a black student was forced to the ground at gunpoint for “fit(ting) the description of a suspect” mentioned in a campus alert in January 2015, the Yale Daily News reported.
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