Cornell Faculty Approves Resolution to Remove Race from Crime Alerts

The Faculty Senate's resolution maintains including race in crime alerts contributes to the disproportionately violent policing of Black people.
Published: April 16, 2021

ITHACA, N.Y. — Faculty at Cornell University approved a resolution that would remove a suspect’s race from crime alerts.

The Faculty Senate’s resolution argues including race in crime alerts contributes to and justifies the disproportionately violent policing of Black people and also encourages suspicion of Black people, reports Fox News.

“[T]he knowledge that a crime may have been committed by a Black man does not make CRIME ALERT recipients any safer, but instead endangers Black people in the community, reinforcing the common phenomenon of violence against Black people on the grounds that they look like suspected criminals,” reads the resolution.

Another document linked in the resolution said Black men made up 75% of suspects whose race was identified in crime alert emails since January 2019. The document also said previous alerts have been too vague in their descriptions, including one alert that involved “an unknown black male approximately 5’7″ with an average build, dark skin, wearing all black clothing and a black mask.”

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“Considering that height estimations are untrustworthy, this could be almost any Black man. This information is useless to protect the community from the perpetrator — unless one believes it is protective to mistrust or avoid all average black men, which would precisely constitute a racist prejudice,” says the document. “[T]he doubling of blackness — vaguely saying that a black male has dark skin, or superfluously reporting that a black male has black hair — argues to us that there is unexamined cultural work being done through these emails.”

However, not everyone at Cornell supports the resolution. Bill Jacobson, a Cornell law professor, told Fox News that the proposal would have the opposite effect of encouraging stereotyping based on other factors.

“The supporters of this resolution never demonstrated a causal connection between eliminating perceived race of a criminal suspect from police alerts and lowering risk to the community either in whole or as to minority communities,” he said. “The entire purpose of such descriptions is to narrow the range of potential suspects, and that includes not only race, but also sex, height, weight, clothing, and other descriptions that take people out of the range of potential suspects. The more identifying features, the less likely that negative stereotypes would play a role.”

Cornell’s resolution, which was passed on April 7, comes after dozens of faculty, staff, students and alumni signed a letter in the fall condemning “colorblind” practices and urging the school to institute racial quotas and recruit “clusters” of non-White individuals.

Similar resolutions have previously been passed at other college campuses, including the University of Illinois, Chicago, Brown University, and the University of Minnesota.

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