Sunday, January 03, 2010

Post-Racial Bandit Strikes in Dearborn

Speaking of profiling, I was puzzled by a police bulletin published in this Wednesday’s Dearborn Press & Guide. (“Armed robber sought by Dearborn police”).

The Dearborn Police Department are requesting the public’s help in identifying an armed robber who recently stuck up a CVS drug store on Ford Road. “Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad state[d] that, ‘it is important to quickly capture criminals who commit crimes of this nature’”.

Amen to that. Here’s the description provided:
The suspect is described as a well-dressed male, 6’0” to 6’02” tall, weighing approximately 180-200 lbs. He is bald with a moustache, and is believed to be in his late 40’s.

The suspect was last seen wearing a medium length black leather jacket, a maroon colored shirt, dark maroon colored pants, and black shoes.

He was also seen getting into a dark colored 4-door sedan as he left the scene.

The suspect is also believed to be involved in other similar crimes in the area.
This is about as detailed a police description as I’ve ever seen. I counted twelve seperate identifiers. Obviously, many witnesses saw this suspect, and provided similar reliable accounts to the cops. There’s just one thing we’re not told: Was this guy Black, White, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, Oriental?

Okay, that last one is unlikely. But the fact remains that, just like sex, (or what the modern illiterati incorrectly refer to as “gender”), we instantly recognize racial types when we look at people. Maybe it’s not fair, maybe it’s not what Martin Luther King had in mind when he dreamed of a colorblind society, (actually, that had nothing to do with his dream). But when it comes to giving a description of a bad guy, it's vital.

The missing detail may have been an error of the newspaper, an oversight of the police department, or a deliberate decision by the DPD to avoid mentioning race in a public statement. If so, the next time this guy robs a store, the person who quashed that detail should be charged as an accessory. Either way, the description is almost useless.

For the sake of a civil discussion, let’s just hypothesize that, in spite of this security-camera photo published in the P&G, but not mentioned in the story, the CVS Bandit is white. And let’s say the suspect’s whiteness was mentioned in this description, instead of left out for PC reasons. Then we’ll say a clerk at CVS, whose Bluetooth is broken, and is thus uncharacteristically aware of her surroundings, spots someone in her store who looks just like the guy in the description. She recognizes the maroon pants and shirt combo, the leather jacket, that he’s in his late 40s, that he’s got a mustache, that he’s bald, and all the rest of it. He even has a 4-door sedan, which for some reason he’s left illegally parked outside the door with the engine running. The clerk calls the police, and the CVS Bandit is arrested.

A civil rights group immediately gives a press conference accusing the police of profiling the CVS Bandit because he’s white. His only crime, the spokesman gravely informs the press, was “shopping while white.” The spokesman trots out a well-worn sermonette pointing out that as long as white people have been in America, they have been getting arrested on some pretext or other, and that the prisons are full of white people. It’s getting, he says, so that white people in this town are scared to death to even leave their houses.

Chief Haddad says in his statement he’s “confident that with the help of the public this suspect can be identified and arrested before he continues his criminal acts.” Maybe, but not with this description. I’d be more confident the suspect could be identified if the public were given information that didn’t require guessing about his ethnicity. I’ve allowed that this may have been an oversight, and not a deliberate deletion by the DPD or a Press & Guide editor. But haven’t we seen this kind of thing before?

Looked at in a larger context, this is a small example of how silly it is to exclude critical details about a suspected wrongdoer's race or other sensitive details from fear of causing offense.


Cracker said...

Yep, that would be considered "well dressed" for Deartriotistan. Elsewhere, ghetto.

And, judging from the pic... I can't really decipher whether it's a dune coon or a negro. Doesn't really matter, they both act the same just different shades.

Wendy Woodley said...

The robber's ethnic identity ought to be one of the first items of description.If he shaves his moustache, changes his clothes, drives a different car, what are the odds then that he will be recognized? The Dearborn Press and Guide seems to bend to ridiculous extremes to be politically correct.