ACJS Minorities and Women and Police Section to Host Panels on Police Reform

The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) will hold their annual conference in Kansas City, Missouri March 21-25, 2017. ACJS President, Dr. Lorenzo Boyd encouraged collaboration between the Minorities and Women Section and the Police Section to develop panels on community relations and police reform. Police practitioners from across the country have been invited to ACJS and they also will participate in these panel discussions. The goal of the panels is to discuss strategies for bringing police and communities of color together and to address police reform.  Here a list of the panels:

Police-Citizen Encounters: Building Trust and Deescalating Violence

The recent tragedies in Ferguson, Missouri; New York City; Cleveland, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; and Los Angeles, California are a clear indication that police officers need to improve their interaction with members of the community, especially communities of color.  These tragedies have illustrated how the use of force can quickly go wrong during police-citizen encounters. This roundtable will focus on strategies and training programs that police departments can adopt to handle difficult encounters and reduce the chances of force or violence being used unnecessarily.

Community Policing: Strengthening Relationships Between Police and Minority Communities

Recent encounters between police and minority communities demonstrate that there is very little trust between the police and the communities they serve, especially in minority communities. This roundtable will discuss the reforms that are necessary to improve the relationship between the police and minority communities.

Addressing Discourteous Officer Demeanor

The citizen confidence and satisfaction in the police is influenced most by the quality of the citizen’s recent contacts with the police.  Most often the demeanor of the police determines whether or not the encounter is perceived as negative or positive.  Also due to the proliferation of technology, poor demeanor on the part of individual officers is instantly visible to the public.  This roundtable will examine the ways in which law police departments can address discourteous officer demeanor and build trust among citizens.

Police and Citizen Fears During Police-Citizen Contact 

There is a longstanding fear among black men that almost any encounter with police can be potentially deadly, while at the same time, there is a belief that police officers are fearful of Black males because of the high rate of violence and homicide in some of their neighborhoods.  Because of this black implicit bias based on stereotypes, police may view Blacks as threats. There has been little research on fear as it relates to the relationship between the police and citizens.  This roundtable will explore these arguments of fear among both Blacks and police during their encounters.

 The Need for Transparency When Police-Citizen Encounters Turn Deadly

In the wake of several well-publicized cases of deadly force encounters between police and minority citizens and the apparent lack of accountability, greater attention has been placed on the need for transparency during police-citizen encounters. This roundtable will explore the contours of the body-camera debate and other strategies, such as developing a national database of transparent information, fostering greater community engagement designed to increase transparency, reveal instances of police misconduct, reform police (and civilian) behavior, and building trust between the police and the community, and decreasing the use of deadly force by the police.

Black Lives Matter versus Blue Lives Matter: Addressing the ‘Us versus Them’ Mentality 

The Black Lives Matter Movement was initiated as rallying cry of a national protest against the deaths of unarmed black people at the hands of police.  The Blue Lives Matter movement was created to honor and recognize the actions of law enforcement to strengthen the public support.  Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter not mutually exclusive because it is possible to be against police brutality and still care about the lives of innocent police officers.  This roundtable will address the ‘Us versus Them’ Mentality.

Police Violence Against Invisible Blacks:  Black Women and Other Marginalized Blacks

The discourse within the Black Lives Matter tends to focus primarily on police violence against black men.  However, black women, black homosexuals, black transgender people, and poor Blacks who experience police violence are often ignored in the national conversation on race and police abuse.  Discussion on police abuse should be more inclusive and attentive to the intersectionality of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and transphobia which are elements of police violence against certain segments of the Black community.  This roundtable will discuss the importance of analyzing police violence against Blacks within a broader context of all black lives matter.

Racial Justice Protests: Addressing Police and Community Conflict

Protests sparked by police killings of unarmed Black men and women have met with considerable condemnation, and in some cases, outright hostility from law enforcement agencies across the United States. Police agencies claim that it is the violence that they are opposed to that has happened during racial justice protests. However, even peaceful protest such as San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem has ignited outrage in White communities and among police agencies. This roundtable will examine ways to address police and community hostility toward racial justice protests with the goal of finding common ground to rebuild relationships.

If you are interested in attending the conference, please go the ACJS Annual Meeting page. You can also visit the ACJS Minorities and Women or ACJS Police Section Facebook pages to learn more about the sections.

Ban the Box: Giving Offenders a Fair Chance

“Ban the Box”

The National Employment Law Project (2014) estimates that 70 million Americans—one in four—adults have a criminal record. The majority of employers include questions about a person’s criminal background on their job applications and they use it to screen out applicant with a criminal history. “Ban the Box” or “Second Chance” is a movement to eliminate questions about criminal backgrounds from public employment applications. The goal of the movement is to defer a job applicant’s criminal background check until the applicant has been selected for an interview. The Legal Services for Prisoners with Children supports removing the box from applications for housing, public benefits, insurance, loans, and other services, too. In addition, proponents believe that this law should be extended to include private employers.

Benefits of “Ban the Box”

There are several benefits to adopting ban the box laws. First, it eliminates discrimination against individuals with prior criminal histories based solely on one global question. Removal of the box allows those with a criminal history to remain in consideration for the job at which time they have the opportunity to explain their criminal histories to potential employers. Second, it does not prevent employers for conducting criminal background checks on individuals before they are actually hired. However, if they applicant is otherwise qualified for the position, the hope is that employers will ultimately hire the applicant. Finally, employers working with protected or vulnerable populations (e.g., jobs working with children or the elderly) are exempt from the law. In other words, the law is a middle ground compromise that increases the odds that those with criminal records will be treated fairly during the employment process while simultaneously protecting the public.

Why Should We Care?

Offenders face significant obstacles once they are released from prison, with employment being a major one. We know that employment is an important component of successful prisoner reentry. For example, research shows that employment significantly reduces the likelihood of reoffending (Latessa, 2012; Morenoff and Harding, 2011; Visher, Debus, and Yahner, 2008) and success on parole (National Institute of Health, 2010). Therefore, the ban the box law increases the odds that those with a criminal record may find employment and reduce the likelihood that they commit future offenses.

Major U.S Cities and Counties that Banned the Box

California*

Connecticut*

Colorado*

Delaware*

Georgia

Florida

Kentucky

Illinois*

Indiana

Louisiana

Maryland*

Massachusetts*

Michigan

Minnesota*

Missouri

Nebraska*

New Hampshire*

New Jersey

New Mexico*

New York

North Carolina

Ohio

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island*

Tennessee

Texas

Virginia

Washington

Wisconsin

*States that have legislation or administrative orders to ban the box

References

Latessa, E. J. (2012). Why work is important and how to improve the effectiveness of correctional reentry programs that target employment. Criminology and Public Policy, 11(1), 87-91.

Morenoff, J. D. and Harding, D. J. (2011). Final Technical Report: Neighborhoods, Recidivism, and Employment Among Returning Prisoners. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

National Employment Law Project. (2014). Statewide ban the box reducing unfair barriers to employment of people with criminal records. Retrieved from http://nelp.3cdn.net/51c633b5eb9f412b88_q4m6vu7ia.pdf.

National Institute of Corrections. (2010). Is employment associated with reduced recidivism? The complex relationship between employment and crime. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Corrections.

Visher, C., Debus, S., and Yahner, J. (2004). Employment after prison: A longitudinal study of releases in three states. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute.