After some changes, profiling still a worry

Students and a U administrator said campus crime alerts can be alienating.

After some changes, profiling still a worry

Anne Millerbernd

Kevin Johnson feels unsafe around police, especially when he’s walking around the University of Minnesota campus. After the school boosted police presence this fall, Johnson said he felt especially uneasy.

“Adding police is not going to make me feel safer. Increasing patrol is not going to make me feel safer,” said Johnson, a senior studying communications and African American and African studies.

Months after members of the University’s black community raised concerns that crime alerts can cause racial profiling on campus, some say the school could do more to address them.

“We do not profile based on race,” said University Services Vice President Pam Wheelock at a press conference Wednesday. “We police based on behavior.”

University officials send crime alerts to students, faculty and staff when a crime occurs on or near campus, in compliance with federal law.

Many of these alerts in fall described the suspects as black men with few other details. Alerts sent in the spring have included some more detailed descriptions of suspects and a disclaimer about racial profiling with a link to University police policy. Vice President for Equity and Diversity Katrice Albert said that because the alerts often don’t include many details besides race, some students feel uneasy.

“People of color are very concerned that they’re being looked at … in a very different way, so that’s biased,” she said to reporters.

Wheelock, Albert, Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Danita Brown Young, and Black Men’s Forum President Ian Taylor Jr. led a meeting Wednesday where students and faculty members discussed racial profiling issues caused by an increased spotlight on campus crime.

But because the administrators said profiling doesn’t happen at the University, Taylor said, the discussion might not lead to many changes.

“From my fellow panelists, it just seemed like there was this lack of [receptiveness] to the fact that racial profiling was in fact happening,” he said.

Wheelock said nobody at the University has filed a report of racial profiling since she started working at the school. But several people in the audience at Wednesday’s meeting shared personal experiences of being treated differently because of their skin color.

University officials declined to comment further for this story after Wednesday’s meeting and press conference.

Brown Young told those at Wednesday’s meeting that she hopes students and police officers can meet and “break down some of the barriers” between them.

“I truly believe that our officers … have the community’s interest at their heart and they want to protect and serve our community,” she said.

Black Student Union President Amber Jones said Wednesday’s meeting was an important step toward addressing profiling, but she hopes the University will start to take an active approach to the issue, rather than a reactive one.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all solution,” she said.

Jones and others in the University’s black community want more students involved in talks with administrators.

Though most people at Wednesday’s meeting said it was a step in the right direction, some black student leaders fear their concerns won’t be met with action.

“I don’t know if we really have a voice because we were heard, but I don’t know if it was respected,” said Johnson, who is also BSU’s secretary. “When you’re respected, that implies that there’s some action that’s going to follow.”