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Why did a Lockport, New York police department describe a Black shooting suspect as “negro?”

Shamir Allen, 19, was identified as such in a police form that asked officers to list his “complexion.” Local news station WGRZ-TV questioned the police department to determine why they’ve chosen not to retire the outdated, segregation-era description.

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Police Chief Larry Eggert, a 34-year vet, says he does not think the racial description is offensive and told the news outlet that he was unaware of all the societal negativity that the word “negro” carries with it.

“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,” said Eggert.


In fact, Eggert defends the use of the ethnic description by stating that his officers use the terms “light” and “dark negro” to describe suspects but that use of the term is not written in a departmental policy.

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Back in 1994, the Lockport police department installed a computer software system that asks for the description of a suspect’s complexion.  When officers are filling out their reports and arrive at the complexion line, there are 12 descriptions to chose from including light, medium, dark, light and dark negro.

Eggert assured WGRZ-TV, however, that the word “Negro” will be erased from the department’s database this week.  The department will also require that officers attend diversity training courses over a two-week period, in order to fully comprehend, why the word “negro” was dropped out of favor.