Understanding that the challenges now confronting law enforcement are especially formidable, Woodbury University’s College of Liberal Arts will take a new approach to criminal justice education this coming academic year, the university announced today.
According to Doug Cremer, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Woodbury’s program in Public Safety Administration will involve not only faculty who are in the field — police officers, corrections officers and rehabilitation experts — but also those who engage law enforcement and its systems on a regular basis, including attorneys, activists and community leaders. Through using such techniques as service learning and civic engagement, students will have experiences that will lead them to better understand the specific issues and needs of their own communities, Cremer said.
Recent confrontations in Charlottesville and around the nation have revealed how difficult it has become to deal with the rising belief by some, especially those advocating white supremacy, that public provocation and violence are the solution to what they see as long-standing problems. “Taken together, these developments point to need for a significant reconsideration of criminal justice education, one that includes not only basic career preparation but also a more sophisticated understanding of the interactions between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve,” Cremer said.
Woodbury’s Public Safety Administration curriculum will address social and political issues arising from the role of local police in immigration enforcement and the prospect of deportation, along with the continuing problem of disproportionate police violence toward communities of color.
“In university education, given these constant and growing concerns, there is a need for programs that broaden the scope of the traditional criminal justice degree to include matters of racism and discrimination, the demands for both public and private safety, and the connections between domestic and international security,” Cremer said. Broadening the emphasis beyond enforcement, the program will reference studies of early intervention, improvements in community relations, and analysis of complex social systems.
“We’re designing programs that study the entire criminal justice process, from the standpoint of the family, the community, and the city, and the impact on these by the entire process of crime prevention, to individual arrest and prosecution, through the correctional system and on to reintegration efforts,” he said. “Programs must address the expansive nature of public safety, creating a conversation among academicians, practitioners, and community members that will seek to help transform local communities by using ethical frameworks to solve these complex problems.”
Cremer suggested that real-world engagement makes students stronger candidates for the workforce as well as for graduate and professional school. The Public Safety Administration program works with community partners to create service projects, part-time jobs, internships, and full-time opportunities that build on classroom learning.
“On average, Woodbury students choose to stay within their local communities after graduation,” Cremer said. “Providing early opportunities that addresses local needs, while developing student’s academic skills, sense of civic responsibility, and commitment to the community, is critical. This is what we are putting together at Woodbury.”