Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

School of Public Affairs Develops a Certificate Program on Race, Policing, and Community Relations

Three-course certificate aims to improve relations between community members and police officers by presenting officers with research and history about the lived experiences of Black people in the United States.

School of Public Affairs Develops a Certificate Program on Race, Policing, and Community Relations

by Roddrick A. Colvin, PhD

​November 12, 2020

On June 4, 2020, the University’s faculty leaders unanimously approved a resolution to specifically address the training of police officers and others within law enforcement following nationwide unrest in the wake of continued police officer-involved shootings of unarmed Black individuals. To improve the training of police officers, the School of Public Affairs (in conjunction with Global Campus) has created a three-course certificate program that will explore race, policing, and community relations.

Unlike other police training courses, this certificate does not offer tools, techniques, or strategies to affect behavior. Instead, the goal is to create stronger bonds between community members and police officers by exposing officers to the research, history, and the lived experiences of Black people in the United States. Through long-term interaction and collaboration, we believe that both police officers and community members can improve our relationships.

The certificate program explores racial disparities resulting from the pervasive influence of “routine” encounters, contacts, and interactions between police officers and community members. The certificate program is explicitly interested in exploring and discussing anti-Black racism - both in policing and at large. To better understand racial disparities in policing, we examine empirical social science literature related to forms of bias (including unconscious, personal, and institutional) in law enforcement and their deleterious effects on both police departments and communities of color.

Central to the design of the program is the service-learning component. Each cohort of police officers will be paired with community-based partners. Together, the officers and community members will identify, plan, and carry out a community-based project. The projects will be used as a vehicle for building and fostering collaboration and trust among the officers and the community members. Each service-learning project will be different, based on the needs of the community-based partner. Initial community partners will include the Urban League, the Racial Justice Coalition, and SD Black LGBT Coalition.

This competitive program lasts nine months and seeks to enroll sergeants in police departments. Officers will have the opportunity to earn graduate or undergraduate credits for completing the program.

We expect to have our inaugural cohort of police officers in the summer of 2021. If the program is successful in the San Diego region, we hope to offer the certificate program to the officers across the State of California by 2025.

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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