Thursday, May 22, 2008

Marquette: Concealing Information About an At Large Suspect?

From an e-mail to the entire university community sent earlier this evening:
PUBLIC SAFETY ALERT
May 21, 2008

An off-campus robbery within the 900 block of North 17th Street was reported to the Department of Public Safety at approximately 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 21. During the incident, two male suspects approached the victim, a Marquette student. One suspect displayed a weapon and demanded personal property. The descriptions of the two male suspects were not specific. The victim was not physically injured.

The Department of Public Safety and Milwaukee Police Department officers were contacted and immediately responded to the scene. Victim services were offered to the student involved in this incident.

Anyone having information about this incident is encouraged to contact the Milwaukee Police Department at 414-935-7360 or Marquette’s Department of Public Safety at 414-288-6800.
What is missing here? Any description of the suspects.

And since the suspects are still at large, that’s not a trivial omission.

In fact, an officer with Marquette Public Safety told us that the suspects are black males.

In the past, Marquette has been forthcoming about the race of suspects. Why not this time? One wonders whether Marquette is following in the footsteps of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which in one famous instance failed to report suspects’ race, apparently out of political correctness.

Of course, it’s possible that the person who sent out the e-mail alert lacked “specific” information, notwithstanding that Public Safety had it.

Developing . . .

12 Comments:

Blogger JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

I agree with you here. If they know any physical characteristics, that info should be disclosed.

2:14 PM  
Blogger James Pawlak said...

The physical description would have been better put with the addition of:
"Each suspect had two bullet holes in his forehead".

8:31 PM  
Anonymous Mandarin said...

James! you are too much. And I cannot believe, Dr. M, that you don't moderate his inane comments. I'm thinking of some from the past (along with his most recent) where he threatens lynching, "retroactive abortion" for pro-choicers, and extreme violence directed towards protesters. I didn't know that threats and talk of brutal violence/death help advance discourse. Please do enlighten me on my concern.

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really don't understand how physical characteristics are particularly helpful in the DPS emails. It seems that the majority of the reported suspects are black males. How does this serve to help me, a potential victim (insomuch as any of us are)? Should I cower in fear each time I cross an African American male's path? Be on my guard any more than I should perhaps already be?

By the way James, murder jokes? HILARIOUS.

1:03 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

And I cannot believe, Dr. M, that you don't moderate his inane comments. I'm thinking of some from the past (along with his most recent) where he threatens lynching, "retroactive abortion" for pro-choicers, and extreme violence directed towards protesters.

My view of moderation is that I prevent nasty insults aimed at other posters.

I don't reject extreme and outrageous ideas.

A direct threat of violence against an identifiable individual I would reject, however.

10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that to solve our crime problem we should expel all students who walk alone at night. In turn, they would not get robbed.

Am I a genius or what?

11:48 PM  
Blogger James Pawlak said...

I write of the justice needed in a society where the authorities are either unable or unwilling to deal with murderers (Including abortionists), robbers, rapists,those who suppress the free speech of those who are given a forum to speak and other thugs. I specially note the opposition of such authorities to adult, sane and law abiding citizens having instant access to the means (Concealed firearms) to enforce their Natural Law right to self-defense and their like duty to protect others.

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The decision to not reveal the race is probably directly tied to an on-campus protest right before finals. Students are angry at the vague descriptions that are given in the DPS reports.

A number of black students were allegedly harrased by public safety, only for public safety to later find out that they were Marquette students coming to and from Raynor.

A black staff member here at Marquette (who made the decision to make this his last year at MU) was detained by MPD because he "matched the description" of one of the suspects. Despite the fact that he had a MU ID and people to vouche for where he was coming from and going to (several students identified him as someone they were just with moments beforehand), he was detained for a good portion of the night.

So the argument goes, if you can't put anything in the desciption that would help you narrow it the possibly number of suspects down, then why put anything at all, regardless of race.

Here are my thoughts:

If you are going to send out an email or a text message (a feature we've only utilized once in the event of a cancellation of class) or some sort of an alert right away then by all means include everything you have in the description, no matter how much or how desriptive the info is. It may help to keep people in the area safe and/or identify the person if he/she is still in the area. If, however, you're going to notify the masses the day after the event has occured, then such a vague description really serves no purpose. Black male, gives you tens of thousands of people, a height range gives you another tens of thousands of people, and people wearing black, anybody's guess (besides, the criminal isn't going to have on the same clothes the morning after). As an aside, isn't black clothing the traditional choice when committing a crime at night?

So while I'm not necessarily inclined to agree with the protestors, I think there definitely is a need for more detailed descriptions. A key question is are the descriptions not detailed because only so many questions are asked of the victim? Is the victim to traumatized to remember?

The main problem I see, is that too many of these incidents occur on a random night, and we find out about the event the next day because of a piece of paper taped to a wall or a special news brief (I, for one, would like to know via text message at 2am before I leave Raynor at 3am). Well guess what, the vague description wasn't much to work with right when the crime happened, and the only result it's going to produce the next day is that black students on campus are given the decision to wear easter colors or be stopped by public safety/MPD.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

My guess is that they felt they didn't have an adequate description (or one at all) from the victim. As for anonymous' comments, I'm not sure why the timing of the notification should matter all that much in terms of description, considering that an at-large suspect is going to be at-large an hour or 10 hours after a crime.

Aside from this, I think anonymous brings up several very helpful points. The email sent out is extremely brief. First, it begs the question why, if possible, was a more detailed description not included (or generally included in these incidences).

Second, the point about response time is dead-on. The emails sent out are not particularly complex. DPS should make it a priority to send out an email as simple as the one above as soon as possible after an event. The suspect is still at-large. It would seem helpful to warn people of this sooner than 5-10 hours after an event.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Zach W. said...

Perfessor, you stated in your entry that what was missing in the email was any description of the suspects, but that's not true. It's clearly mentioned in the email that the suspects were two males. Clearly that's at least part of a description of the suspects.

5:45 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

The decision to not reveal the race is probably directly tied to an on-campus protest right before finals. Students are angry at the vague descriptions that are given in the DPS reports.

A number of black students were allegedly harrased by public safety, only for public safety to later find out that they were Marquette students coming to and from Raynor.


It sounds like you have some interesting information, and indeed information that has not made it into any media (the Trib and the Warrior aren't around in the summer).

If you want to contact me about details of what you are reporting, I would be interested in blogging on it, and would most certainly respect your desire not to be identified.

I function like all journalists in this regard: it can be "for the record," "not for attribution," "background" or "deep background."

It can also be information I can't use at all, but what's the point in that?

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out the description of the suspects given here:

http://www.jsonline.com/watch/?watch=1&date=5/29/2008&id=40378

4:38 PM  

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