Lockport, N.Y., police apparently thought it would be OK to label the complexion of 19-year-old Shamir Allen as “dark Negro” on his mug shot in the police department’s database, WGRZ-TV reports. Allen was detained for alleged involvement in a string of shootings that have hit the city this year, according to WGRZ.
The Lockport Police Department’s use of the outdated terminology—even the U.S. census stopped using it last year—to refer to Allen has some black leaders of nearby Buffalo, N.Y., heated.
Eva M. Doyle, a columnist who writes about African and African-American culture, said that she thought the insensitive label was a reflection of ignorance and a lack of education by the police. She was especially offended by the distinction “dark.”
“I think what really bothered me more was using the term ‘dark,’ because to me that is saying that there’s a discrimination there—[they’re] making a difference between a dark-skinned and a light-skinned that is something that we have struggled with for a long, long time in this country,” she said, according to WGRZ.
State legislator Betty Jean Grant also expressed her frustration. “This right here is insulting, it is disrespecting, it is inaccurate and it’s a word that should have gone away at least since the 1960s,” Grant told WGRZ. “That word was developed during slavery to subjugate, discriminate, to make people feel bad about themselves.”
Police Chief Larry Eggert seemed unaware that the term could be offensive to some blacks when a WGRZ reporter brought it to his attention on Wednesday. “If it bothers people that much, we’re going to take it out. It’s not used as an inflammatory word, as a racially divisive term; it isn’t any of that. It was in the drop-down menu that a well-meaning officer picked because he thought that’s what the person looked like,” he said.
Eggert said the term “Negro” would be removed from the LPD’s database and the department would hold diversity training in the coming weeks to explain to officers why the racially charged reference was no longer appropriate to use. Going forward, all suspects will be listed with a light, medium or dark complexion, along with their race, according to WGRZ.
Frank Mesiah, who is president of the Buffalo branch of the NAACP, said the LPD’s continued use of the term—best saved for a civil rights history lesson or in a reference to an organization like the United Negro College Fund—suggests that “race is alive and well, especially within a police department,” reports WGRZ.
Read more at WGRZ.