CHRO Connects: Community Policing

On November 18, 2014 the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) and the UConn School of Law chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union-Connecticut held a panel discussion on community policing entitled Accountability, Constitutionality, and Transparency in Community Policing. The panel consisted of Chief Daryl Roberts, a retired Police Chief of Hartford, Professor William Jelani Cobb, Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut and Professor Kim Shayo Buchanan, Associate Professor of Law and Gender Studies from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. The panel discussion was facilitated by Dean Timothy Fisher and took place at the University of Connecticut School of Law.
The lively and passionate discussion was supplemented by a variety of memorable anecdotes. Professors Cobb spoke about his experience in Ferguson when protests began after Michael Brown’s death and Chief Roberts relayed some of the challenges he faced in our local community around issues of race, cultural (in)sensitivity and the use technology in policing. Cobb and Buchanan found a myriad of ways to situate their own musings into that of the larger literature surrounding issues such as the criminalization of poverty, the colonial mindset, disparate impact, reflective democracy and police legitimacy. All three panelist constantly reminded the audience to be mindful of the historical context of our country and society when discussing cultural biases, racism and violence. “Racism is not accidental in this country. It serves a social and economic purpose… This is not a cancer that has emerged in a healthy body,” was one of the most memorable quotes from Professor Cobb. The discussion ended with the daunting question, “Is there hope?” to which the panelist seemed unsure. Solutions to our society’s problems around race take “work” and Professor Cobb grimly suggested that most aren’t willing to do what it takes. Chief Roberts firmly stated that police departments have to reflect the communities that they are meant to serve and protect in order for disparate treatment to cease. In regards to the Ferguson incident and others like it, Chief Roberts stated, ” For me, this is not a civil rights issue, it is a human rights issue…All life is precious.”