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Police Violence and Race

Speaker series to inform community kicks off Oct. 1

By Shaine Jackson
On September 30, 2015

                Police have killed a lot of African Americans, but the media hasn't shown much sympathy in the past. Are you wondering why? I know I'm wondering why the sudden interest in old news. It seems that every week another African-American is dead at the hands of a uniformed officer. Fortunately for us here at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash, we have professors that want to help answer our questions and ease our concerns.  Todd Callais is a professor here at UCB, and with UCBA adjunct Wendy Calaway will be bringing us a five part speaker series dedicated to the topic of policing the black community. With five varying guest with different specialties and philosophies, they will attack this topic from a multitude of angles

                The first of the five speeches will be on October 1st in Muntz Auditorium (Room 119) from 12:30 until 2:00. It's entitled “Race, Policing and the City Since World War II,” and the featured speakers will be UCBA’s own history professor Robert Gioielli. Gioielli and Callais will be discussing multiple topics of race in history, but one of those topics will be the history of the relationship between police and African-Americans. This should be very interesting discussion, especially if you consider some of the history of race in this country. At one point officers were responsible for keeping blacks and whites separate. Now they're responsible for the protection of both races. Callais expressed his reasoning for selecting this topic saying that they “want to do that speech so people understand that this isn't really a new phenomenon as much as it's something that we’re are just seeing more.”

The next speech, “Race and the Decision to Shoot: Understanding the Psychology of Decision Making” will be on October 5th in Muntz Auditorium (Room 119) from 2:30 until 4:00. This subject is partially inspired by a chapter from the award winning book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. The speaker for this installment of the series is Joseph Serio from Michigan State. He will provide a psychologist's perspective to this series. His focus will be on the decision an officer makes when he fires his weapon. He will obviously discuss police shootings but also touch on subjects you may know little about such as temporary autism and self-conscious racism. As Callais says, “We thought it would be appropriate to have a psychologist who focuses on the role of race and bias in split second decisions since split second syndrome is something that police officers discuss a lot in a response.”

The third talk, “Mindfulness as a Mechanism for Improving Police Performance,” by David Klinger from the University of Missouri-St. Louis will be held on October 29th in Muntz Auditorium (Room 119)  from 6:00 until 7:30. If the name David Klinger sounds familiar it may be because he’s a well-respected researcher that is has been featured in a plethora of articles, journals, and even referenced by Gladwell. Klinger, one of the country's leading experts in criminology and criminal justice, will focus on a couple of topics that include the training of police officers along with mistakes officers make on the job. He will speak about a lot of recent situations where police could have made better decisions. This is a highly respected and smart man who’s traveling across the country to speak with the UCBA community, so show up early to guarantee a spot.

The fourth speech will feature Callais as he examines the media's coverage of the recent police shootings. This speech will be on November 17th in Muntz Auditorium (Room 119) from 12:30 until 2:00. “Media Coverage, Police Use of Force and Race: Understanding What Makes an Event Newsworthy” is the title. Callais says that his speech will touch on multiple subjects that involve the media so this shouldn't be stagnant but will in fact it should be quite eventful. One topic you can expect to hear about is why one shooting is deemed more important than another in the eyes of the media along with potential biases the media displays in these cases. For example, consider the question of why the pictures of African-American victims seem to portray them in a less than ideal light. Callais explains, “I don't think somebody sits in a room and says like, ‘no, let's get a "thuggish picture,"’ but what I do think is, there is this natural tendency to believe that the police officer, the default should go to him...Also what we know is, and while the interpretation of this maybe can be debated, the numbers are somewhat clear. The evidence indicates that black criminals sell more newspapers and sell coverage a little bit more than white.”

The fifth and final speech will be November 24th in Muntz Auditorium (Room 119) from 12:30 until 2:00. “Working Toward Change: The Role of Movement Organizers in Criminal Justice Reform” will feature not one, but two guest speakers. The speakers are the head of the AMOS project Troy Jackson, and Ohio Student Association community organizer Aramis Malachi-Ture Sundiata. The goal of this speech is to inform the attendees of ways citizens can influence change in the criminal justice system. Callais gives them credit for being on the frontlines of this battle for change.

This speaker series will provide our students, and all other attendees, a chance to gather information along with a platform to express questions or ideas to reform the criminal justice system. Hopefully we can help reach the goal set by Professor Callias to “discuss the topic from a number of different angles, and discuss the ways that we can approach it, also understand it, but also potentially help with the problem.” This is an important issue in America that has affected many people, and the UCBA community is invited to come out to one or all of the five parts of the Police, Race, and Trust: Examining and Overcoming Police Violence speaker series.

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