University police addresses assault reported by University lecturer

Tuesday, November 22, 2016 - 3:37pm

In a statement Tuesday, the Department of Public Safety and Security wrote that DPSS was not aware until Saturday afternoon of an assault on a University lecturer last week, referred in testimony before Ann Arbor City Council Monday.

Khita Whyatt, lecturer of dance in the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance, said in an interview after her testimony on the incident that she did not immediately call the police because she was so shocked, but her department chair contacted the DPSS. Two days after the incident, Whyatt said she was interviewed by two DPSS officers. During her testimony to Council, she called on the University to release a crime report about how she was knocked down and intimidated by unknown assailants. The event follows similar incidents where crime alerts had not been released. The University has released two crime alerts of hate crimes on campus over the past two weeks.

Whyatt wrote in an email sent Tuesday afternoon to recipients including University President Mark Schlissel as well as The Michigan Daily that she waited until Saturday morning to report the assault to police because she was disoriented and did not know where to reach out.

“I did wait until Saturday morning to get in touch to report the incident,” Whyatt wrote. “I was in shock and still processing what to do prior to reaching out … it was also obvious that there was no way that these boys were going to be caught. Not being a student, I did not know who to report to. That must seem obvious by the fact that I emailed the head of my department, my dean and the president.”

In the statement, Diane Brown, spokeswoman for DPSS, said they were not aware of the situation until Saturday afternoon — two days after the alleged assault — but will be conducting a thorough investigation.

“When this allegation from Thursday morning came to our attention Saturday afternoon, we had officers follow up with the woman who experienced this,” Brown wrote. “We are very concerned about this incident and will conduct a thorough investigation.”

In her Tuesday afternoon email, Whyatt reiterated she felt DPSS should release a crime alert.

“Withholding information from the public is the same as lying, in my mind,” Whyatt wrote in the email. “Isolated events are happening all over the place and surely without a pattern. Not informing the campus is WRONG!”

Brown said no crime alert was issued due to the timeliness and the lack of a perceived public safety threat after DPSS learned of the incident.

“We chose not to issue a timely warning, or crime alert as we call them, Saturday night due to the amount of time that had transpired with no other similar reports,” Brown wrote. “When deciding whether to issue a timely warning, there are a number of factors we consider, including the perceived public safety threat, time of report and possible connected reports.”

Brown also encouraged victims of any similar incidents in the future to reach out to report incidents as soon as possible.

“We again are disturbed by this report we learned about Saturday afternoon,” Brown said. “We urge everyone to promptly report any incident of possible assault or intimidation to police so we can respond to the scene and search for suspects.”