Po­lice shoot­ings echo through crim­i­nol­ogy class­rooms in US Jus­tice now, but jus­tice how?

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A new crop of ads on New York City sub­way cars reads “Jus­tice now, but jus­tice how?” The words evoke the tone of street protests over po­lice killings of black men across the United States dur­ing the past three years. But the ads are not a plea from civil rights ac­tivists. They are a re­cruit­ing pitch from the John Jay Col­lege of Crim­i­nal Jus­tice in Man­hat­tan. One of them reads, “If the sys­tem is ever go­ing to change, this is the place where change will be­gin.”

John Jay is one of a num­ber of schools that are mak­ing aca­demic changes in the wake of the high-pro­file killings of black men and boys by po­lice in re­cent years in places like Cleve­land, Chicago, Ba­ton Rouge, Louisiana and Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri, that have fu­eled a de­bate about racial bias in the US crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. At the same time, po­lice have been tar­geted by gun­men in places like Dal­las, Ba­ton Rouge, New York, Philadel­phia and Des Moines, Iowa.

Scores of US col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties of­fer un­der­grad­u­ate and grad­u­ate course work in crim­i­nol­ogy. Grad­u­ates end up in a va­ri­ety of jobs, from po­lice de­tec­tives to so­cial work­ers to cor­po­rate in­ves­ti­ga­tors. Some schools, like the State Univer­sity of New York at Al­bany, are try­ing to help more black, His­panic and other mi­nor­ity re­searchers ad­vance in their ca­reers by cre­at­ing jobs for those just out of grad­u­ate school.

One school, the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Irvine, said it was con­sid­er­ing a new course that would teach fu­ture po­lice of­fi­cers to em­pathize with peo­ple who have been ar­rested. Pro­fes­sors at other schools said they were chang­ing how they ad­dress race in ex­ist­ing cour­ses by adding ma­te­rial re­lated to bias. Some crim­i­nal jus­tice pro­fes­sors may re­ori­ent their re­search to fo­cus more on po­lice-re­lated deaths, said James Lynch, a Univer­sity of Mary­land pro­fes­sor and pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Crim­i­nol­ogy. That is es­pe­cially likely as the FBI and the US Jus­tice De­part­ment un­der­take a new ef­fort to col­lect data on po­lice use of force, he said. “There’s some change com­ing, and that’s pos­i­tive,” Lynch said. Not all schools of­fer­ing crim­i­nol­ogy course work are mak­ing changes in light of re­cent events. But some, like John Jay, are mak­ing a di­rect ap­peal to a gen­er­a­tion that has watched or even joined protests by groups like Black Lives Mat­ter that crit­i­cize po­lice use of force against mi­nori­ties. “We wanted to go out there with an ad cam­paign that’s fierce, that’s bold, that con­veys the pas­sions of our stu­dents and sup­ports them,” said Rama Sud­hakar, a spokeswoman for John Jay, a col­lege named af­ter Amer­ica’s first chief jus­tice.

‘Dragged away by po­lice’

With po­lice shoot­ings in the news, some crim­i­nol­ogy stu­dents ap­pear more will­ing to share per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences. “Stu­dents are say­ing, ‘I was racially pro­filed,’ or, ‘I saw my fa­ther dragged away by the po­lice,’” said Teresa Dal­ton, who teaches crim­i­nol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Irvine. The crim­i­nal jus­tice school at the State Univer­sity of New York at Al­bany is adding six post-doc­toral fel­low­ships, tem­po­rary jobs for peo­ple who re­cently re­ceived doc­toral de­grees, for schol­ars who are mi­nori­ties. Wil­liam Pride­more, the school’s dean, said the re­cent shoot­ings mo­ti­vated the push.

“In gen­eral in crim­i­nol­ogy we don’t have a lot of mi­nor­ity schol­ars, and I think it’s im­por­tant that we change that,” Pride­more said. The Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Irvine is con­sid­er­ing a course cen­tered around the per­spec­tive of peo­ple who are ar­rested, rather than from the per­spec­tive of law en­force­ment, Dal­ton said. It would cover sub­jects such as ob­tain­ing bail and what it is like to be in jail. “The pur­pose is to give cops per­haps a lit­tle more em­pa­thy in their dis­cre­tionary de­ci­sions: You could ar­rest this per­son, or you could not ar­rest this per­son, but what will it mean?” she said.

Many po­lice-re­lated en­coun­ters in­volve of­fi­cers and civil­ians of dif­fer­ent races and back­grounds, so of­fi­cers may ben­e­fit from learn­ing about im­plicit bias, said Cory Haberman, a Univer­sity of Cincin­nati pro­fes­sor. Im­plicit bias is a term used by so­cial sci­en­tists to de­scribe sub­tle as­so­ci­a­tions or stereo­types that peo­ple make about groups, such as the idea that mem­bers of one race are more likely to be vi­o­lent than those of an­other. “These is­sues are def­i­nitely in the fore­front of all the stu­dents’ minds,” said Haberman, who said he has added ma­te­ri­als on im­plicit bias to a polic­ing course he teaches.

Only about 15 per­cent of the 12,000 lo­cal US po­lice de­part­ments re­quire of­fi­cers to have at­tended col­lege, ac­cord­ing to the US Bu­reau of Jus­tice Sta­tis­tics. But many of­fi­cers go. About 45 per­cent have at least a bach­e­lor’s de­gree and an­other 43 per­cent have taken some col­lege cour­ses, ac­cord­ing to a 2015 re­search paper in the Jour­nal of Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Ed­u­ca­tion, cit­ing sur­vey data from 2007-2008. Of­fi­cers who went to col­lege are sig­nif­i­cantly less likely to use force than of­fi­cers who did not, ac­cord­ing to a 2010 study pub­lished in the aca­demic jour­nal Po­lice Quar­terly. — Reuters

SAN AN­TO­NIO: San An­to­nio po­lice in­ves­ti­gate the scene of a shoot­ing in the Wal-Mart park­ing lot in San An­to­nio. — AP

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