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Letters to the Editor

Public Safety regrets wording of flyer

I appreciate that the incident reported in the March 6 issue of the 'Prince' has raised concerns about the treatment of African-American students by Public Safety. I look forward to engaging in a constructive campus dialog on this important issue.


Students quoted in the 'Prince' raised concerns about the wording of the original flyer. The students alleged that the description of the individual we sought was discriminatory and was vague enough to apply to many African-American males on campus.

In circulating a description of an individual involved in what may be criminal activity, we generally include the broad physical characteristics witnesses remember and which make suspects in any way identifiable: race, approximate age, height, weight, build, hair color and cut and clothing. It is almost always the case that such broad characteristics will potentially describe many people. In this case, however, we did use a phrase used by the witness and contained in the police report, which said the individual we sought had "short, black wooly hair." We agree that this particular description is stereotypical, and we regret using it.

As to the broader concerns raised about Public Safety's treatment of African-American students, we will do our best both to address the concerns that students have raised and to improve our procedures whenever possible. Barry Weiser Crime Prevention Specialist Department of Public Safety

Search by Public Safety was justified

From my own observations, as well as the testimonies of some of the African-American students with whom I've spoken, I have a great deal of sympathy toward the complaints that Ashley Adams '02 and company have lodged against Public Safety. Practices of harassment do occur, and they must stop. However, I believe the reaction of the African-American student community to the recent events involving Public Safety is a misguided attempt to politicize as a race issue what was, in fact, Public Safety's legitimate response to what appeared to be a dangerous situation.

The information Borough Police received was that there was an African-American male in Chancellor Green who appeared to have a "chrome-plated handgun." Despite the fact that the device was a cap gun (which are illegal in New Jersey, anyway), the perception was that it represented a lethal device. The reporting witness gave a description, which was then passed on to Public Safety. Given such a situation, Public Safety has a duty to act; a lethal device on campus poses a real threat to the community, and it is critical that Public Safety make every attempt to neutralize that threat.

They posted the description Borough Police provided them, located the individual and completely within their bounds, searched his room. If you believe an individual is carrying a gun, and you come to his room to confront him about it, are you going to take the time to introduce yourself, state your purpose and bank on the inherent goodness of humankind that the suspect or one of his friends in the room won't take that time to run, fight or shoot? Surely not. I may know that this person is perfectly harmless, but when a complete set of strangers have as their information that he has a gun, how nice he is is irrelevant. The police telling Damon Nabrit '03 they would arrest him unless he cooperated with the search was the statement of a true consequence for resistance to a warranted search; this was not a violation of his rights, as Adams claims. They were protecting his rights. Their first priority is finding the gun, making sure the suspect is unarmed and then talking about why they're there. There is, unfortunately, no time for social niceties in such a situation. And the fact is, Nabrit did have a gun, albeit a toy one. He was not "falsely accused" of brandishing a "chrome-plated handgun;" he displayed it in public!


If the individuals involved had been white, would the call have come in to Borough Police? Probably not. But that is a question of the bigotry of visitors to Chancellor Green, not the conduct of Public Safety. Given the information at its disposal, Public Safety reacted in an appropriate manner to what appeared as a very real threat. While there are already several instances of harassment around which the African-American student community can rally its protests, this is not the instance to use as a springboard for such platforming. I sincerely hope that Adams and the rest of the African-American student community succeed in choosing an appropriate forum for their concerns, and that wisdom and discretion prevail in their decision. Paul Deeringer '01

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