CJ and AJ Instructors must defend Policing, Julio L. Lima PhD
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Criminal Justice and Administration of Justice professors need to teach more than just information and knowledge about their subjects, they must defend the profession of policing. The profession of policing is under attack. Activists, pundits, academicians, and elected officials have all recently joined in on a loud, boisterous, and conspicuously political attack on the very concept of policing. The trigger has been the murder of George Floyd in the city of Minneapolis, which like the murder of Archduke Ferdinand in the city of Sarajevo more than a century before that ignited World War 1, and set off an absolute conflagration, way beyond the scope of the actual incident. Floyd’s death viewed around the world at the hands of a criminal police officer sparked outrage not just at the incident, but on police everywhere in the country.In response, many municipalities have reacted by appeasing radical demonstrators and activists and defunded their police departments. For many the gutting of local police budgets has not been enough and the solution they call for is the abolishment of police in America. This radical utopian dream is often camouflaged by terms such as Reimaging Policing”, but the details are often opaque and rarely debated. The results have been catastrophic: a measurable rise in crime in many of our major American cities.What many instructors and professors of Criminal Justice and Administration of Justice may not understand is that these radical anti-police ideas: defund the police, abolish prisons, no cash bail, were not born in the minds of radical street activists; they have been around for decades in the halls of academia in various Humanities and Social Science classrooms. If as a professor of Criminal Justice or Administration of Justice, you are not familiar with the philosophies, ideas, and writings of Marx, Gramsci, Foucault, Marcuse, and Angela Davis you should be because these scholars are the intellectual genius behind all these radical ideas and theories. Their thoughts have been growing, evolving, and circulating in philosophy, law, and social science departments for decades and they are being taught in classrooms down the hall from where you teach. Esoteric ideas that were spread, and held by a few intellectuals are now being mainstreamed and put into practice by not only radical activists, but by current elected officials. Many of these professors have never had any real-world contact with law enforcement outside of the occasional traffic violation. Many of their ideas come from watching police dramas on television and in the movies.Your students are being taught in their other classrooms that policing in America is fundamentally and systematically wrong and racist. One example is the teaching that policing in America started with slave patrols in the South. Even though the first police force can be traced to Boston in 1631, when a Town Watch was established. Subsequently, the colonists in New York established a “Burgher Guard” in 1653, and in 1844, New York City established a 24 hour paid police force that resembled London’s Metropolitan Police Force. Slave patrols were just that, vigilante groups that were formed to control and suppress the slave populations in the South and prevent escapes and revolts. They were not involved in preventing and arresting criminals committing crimes against property and persons, and cannot be described as a police force in any modern sense. So why teach that American policing started with slave patrols? The purpose is to define American Policing as fundamentally racist from its inception to this very day.Similar arguments are proffered concerning the so called “militarization of the police”. There is no police department in the United States that has a Main Battle Tank, but this falsehood is routinely mentioned in attacks on the police. One then must ask why would anyone promote this falsehood? The goal is to libel and smear policing in America. What instructors in Criminal Justice and Administration of Justice need to understand is that this is the message that students are hearing in many of their other classes.What could be the consequences of such instruction? The students who have been indoctrinated as opposed to educated will leave college and the university with anti-police attitudes. How does this enhance civility in society? They will vote for elected officials with anti-police attitudes. A recent candidate for mayor in New York City advocated that the New York City Police Department, the largest municipal police department in the country be disarmed, and this candidate did receive votes. If an African American student who has sat in classes where his instructors have taught him that the police are targeting blacks with deadly force, why should not this student fight for his life during a routine traffic stop?This is to be expected if no other alternative message is being taught in the university. Although the defund the police message has resulted in major eruptions of crime in our cities, this has not slowed down the anti -police rhetoric or activism, if municipal police departments should be defunded or abolished, why should Criminal Justice or Administration of Justice Departments exist? If American Policing is fundamentally racist, why would one not expect its instruction to be racist? Would not one solution be the abolishment of instruction and stop the generation of racist ideology and training in the classroom?Instructors in Criminal Justice and Administration of Justice must actively counter this message. They must not just teach the principles of policing, but also the purpose of American police. Students must read the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics and learn that policing is guided by noble virtues, principles, and a duty to serve the public interest. In addition to the fundamentals and purpose of policing, instructors need to share the stories of heroic officers who have saved lives and given their lives to protect the public. Biographies of sworn officers who are women, persons of color, and members of the LGBTQ community should be presented to students to show them that cops are people just like them. This does not mean any whitewashing or hiding any ethical shortfalls or misconduct by police, to the contrary, instructors need to emphasize the work of internal affairs and professional standards units who investigate officer misconduct and show what happens to officers who violate the public trust from termination to incarceration. This discussion of self-policing and dues process is important because students need to understand the legal and ethical basis of policing which is the foundation of the profession is not often found in other aspects of government.The defense of policing is not only necessary because of the attack by activists, academicians, and politicians, it is an essential part of student’s civic education. Many of our students will go into public safety or legal careers and will need to know the importance of their sworn duty. Many of our students will not go on to public safety careers but will be citizens who will judge and determine the type of policing they want in their communities. Each group will be profoundly influenced by the lessons learned in their classes. Their attitudes towards law enforcement will be shaped for a lifetime. It behooves us then to not just teach the fundamentals of policing in our classes but also its purpose and its importance to the preservation of our democracy. Julio L. Lima Ph.D.