[Campus Conversations] Protecting All Communities: Building an Anti-Racist Police Force

October 22, 2020

Every year, Gwynedd Mercy University offers Campus Conversations, a series of lectures, panel discussions, and presentations whose purpose is three-fold: to generate conversation as part of our commitment to intellectual inquiry and lifelong learning; to address relevant, timely, and meaningful topics that speak to our mission and core values; to highlight the expertise of our faculty and other scholars in relevant disciplines. This year’s theme is Systemic Racism.

The third event of the series, “Protecting All Communities: Building an Anti-Racist Police Force,” addressed the possibility of training an anti-racist police force, racism in the law enforcement community, and the effect of race during use of force encounters. The goal of the discussion is to understand how police departments can be improved, offering equal justice to the communities they serve.

Patrick McGrain, PhD, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at GMercyU, was the discussion moderator, leading the panel discussion between Andrea Headley, an Assistant Professor in the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University; Michael White, a Professor at Arizona State University; and Robert Kane, Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Criminology and Justice Studies at Drexel University.

After briefly recounting the history of racial injustice at the hands of police, Dr. McGrain posed a question to the panelists asking where we went wrong and how we reached the point where there is an obvious disconnect between the police and the communities that they serve.

“The first thing that comes to my mind is ‘where did we go right?’” said Dr. Headley. “I think in policing we’ve gone right in certain areas, particularly those pertaining to crime and crime prevention. But we focus so much on trying to prevent crime… rather than thinking about the ways in which policing as an organization has harmed communities. Not focusing on that intentionally throughout the decades is where we went wrong.”

The discussion then launched into speculating about reforming police officer training, accountability of police forces, the validity of community policing, and more.

“Clearly leadership is part of the problem but I think training is an issue, too.” said Dr. White, in regards to regional policing issues. “Most of the training that officers receive have very little to do with what they’re actually going to be doing day-to-day on the street.”

As the presentation came to a close, Dr. McGrain opened the floor for participants to engage in the discussion and ask their own questions of the speakers.

To view the entire recording of this Campus Conversation, visit GMercyU’s YouTube Channel.