I am back from the National LGBT Bar Association conference, and sitting in my office in the main corridor of Ramapo College's Social Science building, getting ready for my first class of the semester. I'm hoping that no one will "pop in" to say hi, not because I'm unsociable, but because I'm putting the finishing touches on my syllabus for today's class. But of course it's already happened six times, and shutting the door just makes it worse with the knocking etc.
The class is "Contemporary Issues In Policing," one of our electives, which we try to offer at least once every two years. Since most of our students in the Law and Society major want to be in law enforcement, it's a popular class, and the class is full. Of course, the question, as always, is how I can integrate issues of social justice that police officers of the 21st century need to know. The students want to get in and out as quickly as possible, and get the highest grade possible, which is entirely understandable, and it's my job to get them to learn anyway.
They want the course to be a cross between CSI and Ghost in the Shell, and I want the course to train potential officers to understand the world they're about to enter into with a badge and a gun. As with all my courses, diversity issues will be included at various points throughout the course, not at the end in a separate section, because they are in the forefront of 21st diversity issues. With the US rapidly becoming a majority non-white country, and the population aging, and more LGBT people coming out, it will be a very different thing to be a police officer in 2020 than it was in 1950, 1980 or 2010.
Here's the course description:
This course explores the history and scope of the relationship between the police and the community. Community relationships are examined from psychological and sociological perspectives. The course analyzes police issues such as media relations; citizen grievances; civilian review boards; selection, training, and education of personnel; police professionalism; discretionary use of police authority; police unionism; crime prevention; and the role of women in police agencies.
You see how the course is designed to analyze policing from the point of view of the community, rather than looking at policing as an exercise in tactics? The highly-regarded textbook I'm using, Millie and Das's "Contemporary Issues In Law Enforcement and Policing," aside from being ridiculously expensive, follows along these lines. Although it stays away from controversial issues of race, class, gender and sexuality, its framework is perfectly designed for supplementation in these areas.