POLICING and RACE ROUNDTABLE

Maple_Update

ROUNDTABLE POLICING AND RACE

Stonehill College: February 1, 2018

On Thursday February 1, 2018, MAPLE participated in a very  intimate and informative roundtable discussion on race and policing.   The discussion included:  Chief Peter Carnes,  Professor Anne Marie Roscheleau, Sergeant Rochelle Ryan, Stonehill College Police and Bertha Francois, from Stonehill College student body. Al Puller and Dennis Galvin participated representing MAPLE.    Both Chief Carnes and Professor Roscheleau are also MAPLE members.   Rochelle Ryan is a former Weymouth police officer, and Bertha Francois is a senior Criminal Justice student at the college.    The group was comprised of 3 black and 3 white participants,    Four general topic areas were discussed and the notes of the discussion are listed below for your reference and review:

OPENING REMARKS: 

  • Dennis Galvin opened the roundtable welcoming everyone. He said that the purpose of the roundtable was to encourage a dialogue on the issue of race and policing, something that he did not believe was being done effectively by society.
  • Both Al Puller and Dennis Galvin conceded the fact that the history of police/ race relations in the US has been a tragic one, and that there exists a deficit of trust and confidence in the police by the African American Community.
  • Most alarming, was disclosures from past discussion, that there appears to be a perception among some African Americans, that the police are either an equal, or even a greater threat to them than street gangs. This was of major concern to the MAPLE representatives.

 

QUESTION # 1:   The first question addressed by the roundtable was whether it was possible to select, train and deploy police officers , regardless of their race, to provide effective public safety, consistent with Constitutional standards, and ultimately obtain the support of the African American community ?

  • One participant offered that the Boston Police had already achieved this.
  • There was general consensus that this could be achieved but it would take a significant effort and commitment.
  • One participant said that the effort would encounter resistance from some whites and blacks, who do not believe that this can be done.
  • Another participant said that the effort would require significant education on behalf of the police, while another offered that the community needs to become more aware of the police mission.
  • All were in agreement that the effort had to be attempted because the consequences for not doing this would be dire.
  • One participant said that forums between white officers and black citizens needed to occur. Another said that both white and black officers should be involved.  It was the fact that they are officers, not their race that is the concern.
  • One participant said that it would be a bad idea to create a force of all white or all black officers. Another participant stated that this had been tried and failed.  The force needs to be integrated.
  • One participant stated that the perception of the police among younger African Americans has been shaped in part by actual experience, but also through social media.  The Ferguson incident, Treyvon Martin and other such incidents have created fear in the minds of many African Americans of the police.
  • One participant said that attitudes of police officers, particularly white police officers, can be problematic.

Police in general don’t like to be held accountable, they resent having to answer for their actions. Another participant was familiar with the officer involved in the Cambridge incident that led to the “beer summit” with President Barack Obama.  It was offered that the officer was not racist, but that he like many officers, did not take kindly to being questioned, challenged, or “seemingly” disrespected in encounters.  He could not back away from an action he took. It’s not that he couldn’t back away from the action, he didn’t even want to hear somebody challenging his appraisal of the situation.

  • One applicant said that some officers have a hard time accepting the fact that people, who live in housing projects can be good people.

 

QUESTIONS # 2: The second question addressed by the roundtable was, what steps need to be taken to achieve the goal identified in question # 1:

  • Selection was a major concern. Several participants asked how hidden racial animosity and bias, which could interfere with training officers to enforce the law more equitably, could be detected through the hiring process ?
  • One participant called into question the efficacy of the police exam system. Several qualified candidates  from Stonehill college applied for police positions and scored high on the examinations, but were never  chosen.  The impact of absolute veterans preference was discussed and the fact that there were no pre-qualifications other than residence, clean criminal record and veterans preference were cited as concerns.
  • One participant said that diversity among candidates was important but not just with regard to race and ethnicity. Hiring college students would help to ensure that officers are more likely to be critical thinkers. A varied set of interests should also be considered, as well, such as computer literacy and other things. These are all needed in law enforcement.
      • One participant said that educating the police force will take care of the problem, Boston has proved that.
      • Another participant said that gang violence was disproportionately affecting African American neighborhoodsOne participant said that the effort to suppress the gangs must go forward and the reactions would have to
        • Another participant emphasized the need for racial sensitivity training and implicit bias training.Continuous training in these areas was emphasized by several participants.
        • One participant said that diversity among candidates was important but not just with regard to race and ethnicity. Hiring college students would help to ensure that officers are more likely to be critical thinkers. A varied set of interests should also be considered, as well, such as computer literacy and other things. These are all needed in law enforcement.
        • One participant said that even if proper selection, training and leadership could be achieved, policing within African American communities would remain difficult because of generations of bad experiences and hard feelings.  These will be very difficult to overcome.
        • One participant noted that dramatic changes have already occurred in Boston and in Springfield. The participant said that Springfield has had a dramatic reversal due to the efforts of the police and the community there. The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department has also been effective in making this turnabout.  Another participant cited the example of community policing implemented in Springfield by

        Trooper Curtatone of the MSP.

        Question # 3:   Even with the best police officers possible, confronting violent street gangs will be dangerous work and will inevitably involve the use of force, how would the police be able to keep public support in  instances where they have to apply force ?

        • One participant said that educating the police force will take care of the problem, Boston has proved that.
        • Another participant said that gang violence was disproportionately affecting African American neighborhoods

        and asked if there would be support for the effort to suppress these gangs even if force was required ?

        • One participant said that the effort to suppress the gangs must go forward and the reactions would have to

        be dealt with as they arise.

        • Another participant noted that “Broken Windows Theory” as advanced by George Kelling was misinterpreted

        by many police agencies.  Some had conducted “pat frisks” without justification, and while they may have been taking guns off the street, they generated such bad will that in the end the effort was counterproductive.

     

    Question # 4:   What concrete steps should be taken to move forward ?

        • One participant cited a recent discussion with Chief Mike Davis of the NUPD in which the Chief suggested that MAPLE push for early victory. Davis suggested that MAPLE look at establishing educational pre-qualifications for police officers.   Another participant criticized the idea claiming that this would lead to another “Quinn Bill”, and that colleges and universities would be locked into mandatory requirements by theState’s Department of Higher Education.
      •  One participant questioned the reasoning behind rejecting the idea of pre-qualifications, stating that an academic foundation for certain law enforcement skills was absolutely essential.   This was challenged by another participant, who said that the students won’t remember the course material, and that they should get it in the Police Academy.In response, a participant said, that certain subjects, like criminal law and civil liberties were not taught effectively in Police Academies. The participant added that a  police academy could never replicate the type of exposure, that an academic environment could provide.  Such an environment is required for such courses to be effective.
  •  

    The meeting extended for one hour and forty minutes. In general all participants felt that the session was constructive, positive and useful.

     

    END

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