Brown University cops won’t report race of wanted suspects

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Police officers at Brown University are no longer including the race of criminal suspects when announcing crimes, after an outcry from Brown students who said the practice stigmatized certain groups.

The policy was first implemented a year ago, but was only publicized Wednesday by The Brown Daily Herald. Including a suspect’s race is often harmful because “vague descriptions can reinforce stereotypes,” causing hostility towards some community members, according to police chief Mark Porter.

To solve the problem, Brown police are making the descriptions even vaguer, including only the suspect’s age, sex, build, and general appearance (sans skin color).

The shift fulfills a demand from some Brown students who called for it while the school was hammering out its $165 million “Pathways to Diversity and Inclusion” action plan.

Even the Rhode Island branch of the American Civil Liberties Union is skeptical of the change, saying the school may be putting people’s feelings ahead of safety considerations.

“Racial profiling is certainly a very legitimate issue for a campus to be concerned about,” Executive Director Steven Brown told  the Daily Herald. “But if the point of these reports is to help identify suspects, I’m not sure it makes much sense to exclude race from the description.”

The Clery Act, a federal law, requires all universities receiving federal funding to provide timely notices and warnings regarding on-campus crime, with the intent of keeping campuses safe.

Brown isn’t the first school to stop reporting the race of suspects. The University of Minnesota made the same move last year, citing concerns that routinely describing young black men as criminal suspects was reinforcing negative stereotypes. The University of Maryland also keeps race out of reports for the same reason.

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