“Breaking news, the First National Bank of Springfield has been robbed. Police say the robbers are armed and extremely dangerous. Citizens should be on the lookout for two persons of average height; one was wearing a dark colored sweatshirt, possibly navy blue and the other a light jacket that appeared to be some shade of green. Citizens with any information regarding the whereabouts of these two suspects should contact the Springfield Police immediately.”
I would guess that right now you are thinking “That is the lamest description of wanted criminals I have ever read.” And you would be right. How in the world are citizens expected to “be on the lookout” for anyone when equipped with such a vague description?
Here in the United States of America, the idea that suspected criminals should not be singled out by race has been put forth as recently as January 2014.
Photo Credit: Flickr.
According to Pamela Wheelock, Vice President of University Services at the University Minnesota, several students, staff and faulty groups petitioned university officials in writing. The petition stated that these groups "unanimously agree that campus safety should be of the UMPD's utmost importance; however, efforts to reduce crime should never be at the expense of our Black men, or any specific group of people likely to be targeted."
The letter, sent to UM President Eric Kaler, demanded that the campus crime alert and crime response protocols be reconsidered. To reinforce their standpoint, the letter stated, “In addition to causing Black men to feel unsafe and distrusted, racial profiling is proven to inflict negative psychological effects on its victims.”
When this story first appeared it was easy enough to dismiss it as the rant of a bunch of disaffected radicals. Surely, no one in their right mind would consider actually removing the physical description of suspects sought by police officers.
It would seem in our modern upside down world, the idea that it is racist to use the actual physical description has caught on, and it even being implemented. Consider the story of the Mother’s Day beating attack in Savannah, Georgia.
The original story simply reported the facts that a family from Atlanta, Georgia was out for a walk the evening of Mother’s Day in the Rousakis Plaza in Savannah. An altercation ensued and two men and one of their wives were savagely beaten on the street by members from another group.
When police arrived, only the victims of the beating remained and the attackers had fled. As you would expect, police were seeking the other parties involved for questioning.
The follow up story from WSBTV.com listed the suspects in the beating attack in the following manner:
“One male was wearing a yellow shirt, the other a red shirt and later took it off and was wearing a white tank top. A younger female was wearing a white skirt or shorts and a beige or yellow top. The elder male was wearing all white and a white hat.”
That is the complete description given in the “news” story.
No hair color, skin color, race or even estimated ages. I suppose it is amazing that they used the terms “male” and “female” as opposed to using “person” in order to be gender-neutral.
Ladies and gentleman, do you believe that the victims of the beatings saw their attackers and gave complete physical descriptions of them to the police? Do you believe that those descriptions were made available to the reporter(s) from WSBTV?
Upon deeper investigation we learned that police had indeed discovered security camera footage that captured the incident and the images of all the people involved, including those who dished out the beatings. This footage was available and even referenced by the news source and yet they could not find the words to describe those suspects at large, save to offer clothing descriptions.
Is this the kind of self-censored journalism that we can look forward to seeing? Can we now expect that reporters and/or copy-editors will remove, or simply fail to document, physical descriptions of suspects in the interest of being politically correct or racially sensitive?
Perhaps the use of detailed descriptions of “suspects at large” has become an outdated concept. Genuine probable cause, based upon detailed information gathered by law enforcement, seems to be hindrance to the state. Consider the case of Yale University last autumn.
Police respond to the reports of a gunman on Yale campus Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, in New Haven, Conn. A lockdown remained in effect on the Old Campus Monday afternoon as police search rooms to confirm that no gunman is on campus. (AP Photo/New Haven Register, Arnold Gold)
In November 2013, Yale University was put into a state of lockdown and SWAT teams were dispatched based on an anonymous telephone call that stated there was a man with a gun headed to the campus. The best description the local news stories could muster was “man with a gun.”
Hundreds of local, state and federal law enforcement officials conducted warrantless searches of innumerable buildings and dorm rooms, not to mention holding the innocent people present prisoner for four hours based upon an arbitrary description from an anonymous source.
There was no gunfire, no corroborating witness reports and no evidence of a crime in progress.
In his initial statement, the Chief of Police indicated that he believed it was a false alarm. Indeed, the incident was later discovered to be a hoax and a 50-year-old man was arrested and charged with making a false 911 call.
What we are witnessing in modern America is the effort to deem any physical description of a suspected criminal to be racist, and therefore off the table. At the same time, we see instances where detailed descriptions of suspects and genuine evidence of crimes are no longer needed for the state to hold the citizens hostage and conduct any kind of arbitrary searches or seizures they deem necessary.
Censorship and an unhindered state are a deadly combination for the weary body of civil liberty.
For the past three decades Paul Markel has had the privilege to study with some of the finest instructors the U.S. Military and Law Enforcement world have to offer. Visit Student of the Gun.
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