Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) welcomed members of the community and FSCJ students, faculty and staff to the first of a three-part Community Conversation Series on December 8. The forum, moderated by Executive Chair for the School of Business, Professional Studies and Public Safety Dr. Cedrick Gibson, encouraged open dialogue and explored the state of relations between Jacksonville’s community and its hardworking law enforcement officers.
Dr. Gibson described the forum as “the first step together to discover ways in which to strengthen our community and our relations for a better tomorrow.” The panel of forum leaders consisted of Director of Security Gordon Bass, Professor of Psychology Dr. Penny Devine, Professor of Criminal Justice Kimberly Hall, Professor of Legal Studies Dr. Nick Martino, Professor of Sociology Dr. JR Woodward and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Assistant Chief T.K. Waters.
Each provided attendees with interdisciplinary perspectives on pertinent issues including the effectiveness of community policing, establishing trust between community members and law enforcement officers, lack of respect from today’s youth toward police, de-escalation training among police and how implicit racial biases influence our behavior, among others.
Some topics were particularly sensitive, including Dr. Devine’s discussion on the dehumanization of African-Americans and its relation to the use of force by police as well as Dr. Woodward’s revelation that “26 percent of all people that are killed by police are African-American, and 33% of all unarmed people killed by the police are African-American.”
Gordon Bass expressed the need to build better relationships with the community in order to break down barriers. “We have to recognize our different cultures, our own biases and prejudices, put them aside and realize we’re all in this together,” he said.
Following roundtable discussions among attendees, the panelists were given a more in-depth look into the perceptions of the community regarding our local police. Many agreed that the media plays a crucial role in how police are portrayed to the public and that showing officers in a mostly negative light often leads to misunderstandings and unfavorable views of police. Some felt that officers should do more to strengthen their bond with the community by spending more time getting to know its diverse people.
Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. John Wall and Dr. Gibson thanked panelists, attendees and the planning committee for their participation in such an important event within our community. The second forum in the Community Conversation Series is expected to take place during the 2017 Spring Term.