Dear University of Michigan Department of Public Safety:

In light of the recent sexual assaults that have occurred in Ann Arbor, I would first like your department to know that I appreciate your efforts to make our community safer. I am comforted in knowing that you have increased the number of patrol cars and are educating our community about what precautions we can take to avoid subsequent incidents.

I would, however, like to bring to your attention a growing and prevalent problem regarding DPS crime alerts. According to your website, the mission statement of your department is “to contribute and to promote a safe and secure community, while respecting the rights and dignity of all persons utilizing the facilities and programs of the University of Michigan.” I feel that the vague and/or conflicting descriptions of black male suspects in these crime reports do not respect the rights or dignity of the black community of this campus. These descriptions do not prevent crime or help us find suspects, but instead promote racial profiling.

On Aug. 27, 2011, the University community received a crime report in which the suspect of an assault incident was described as a “black male, possibly bald or with dread locks, wearing an orange, black, or red t-shirt, with gray sweat pants.” Unless both the suspect and victim of this assault were Stevie Wonder, this description is highly unlikely.

Dave Chappelle, a black male who, unlike Stevie Wonder, is indisputably bald, jokes that the police alert people to “be on the look out for a black male between 4’7” and 6’8,” between 120 and 280 pounds.” While this may sound ridiculous, direct quotes from DPS crime reports like “group of black males” and “five black males” offer the same amount of information as Dave Chappelle’s humorously absurd description.

With vague descriptions such as these, what is the University community to do? Should we stop every group of black males we pass (carefully counting to make sure that there are, in fact, five of them), or are we condemned to forever “change the world” via Facebook statuses? I urge DPS to stop sending out these ambiguous crime reports if only for the sake of the generic black male. Six-foot black males are people too.

Sincerely,
Generic Angry Black Woman

Ashley Harrison is an LSA senior.

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