Six African-American organizations at the University of Minnesota say a recent uptick in crime around campus has heightened concerns that police are racially profiling students and employees.
They say the inclusion of suspects’ race in university crime alerts has been problematic. Although the criminals apprehended have not been connected to the U — and have often come from other cities — employees and students say they find themselves under the gaze of police.
Especially troubling, one black leader said, was the release of a photo of a suspect in the attempted mid-November armed robbery of a student in Anderson Hall — a man police later said wasn’t involved.
“More and more students and employees have been stopped for absolutely no reason, and many of them have even shared that they were told, ‘You fit the description of somebody in a crime alert,'” said Black Faculty & Staff Association President Alysia Lajune. “And the crime alerts, as we all know, are extremely vague.”
A university spokesman says the campus police chief does not believe such profiling is occurring, but is committed to not letting it happen.
University President Eric Kaler says profiling is unacceptable.
“It’s a very legitimate concern, and it’s something that we’re not going to tolerate,” he said. “And to the degree that things have happened that have made the community uneasy, we’ll work to rectify those.”
Black campus leaders sent Kaler and Vice President of University Services Pam Wheelock a letter Dec. 6 (below) laying out their concerns.
In the letter, they said they had met with university Police Chief Greg Hestness, who agreed to add anti-profiling policy language to crime alerts and the department’s website.
According to the letter, they expressed concern that he wasn’t acting quickly enough, and wondered about his sincerity.
Kaler sent them a quick response (below). He wrote, “Our team is simply stretched,” but called on university personnel to carry out the group’s suggestions.
After reading that and speaking with Hestness, Lajune said, she feels the groups are being taken seriously.
She said the U has already met the group’s original requests regarding crime alerts and the police website.
She said she hopes the two sides can discuss solutions in the next few months.