The Racial Justice and Criminal Justice in Oneida & Herkimer Counties Series continued on Oct. 7 with its third installment titled “Why is Diversity Not Enough?: Training and Best Practices for Policing Reform.”
Airing via webinar and on WPNY, the series aims to use the support of participating colleges to inform and continue conversations surrounding racial equality and criminal justice in response to Governor Cuomo’s April 2021 deadline for law enforcement reform. This week’s lecture sought to understand the history of diversity in American law enforcement and explore why law enforcement agencies need reform even if their workforce is reflective of their communities in gender, race, and ethnicity.
Troy Little, director of law enforcement programs at Mohawk Valley Community College, provided the primary presentation. He argued that increasing standardized officer training would further increase agency diversity and improve the relationship between law enforcement and the public. Having previously served with the New York State Police for 22 years, Little noted that “Policing, as any other profession, has its own culture,” and as such, even diverse workforces have a tendency to develop their own biases and approaches to enforcement.
He consequently called for regular, mandated service training for officers, which they would complete throughout their careers. Training would focus on issues such as decision-making and stress management, two facets of policing that continually impact officer conduct.
“We need to keep working to change the culture within these agencies to be more aware of the communities that we’re serving,” Little said. “We can make the big difference [through] focusing on training and education in law enforcement.”
Hamilton’s Maynard-Knox Professor of Law Frank Anechiarico and Musco Millner, director of campus safety and adjunct professor of mathematics at Utica College, responded to Little’s presentation, contributing their respective thoughts. Anechiarico emphasized a need for independent oversight over law enforcement agencies, citing cities like Austin, Texas, and Albany, N.Y., that have “empowered” independent boards.
Millner, who served 26 years with the New York State Police, highlighted creative, highly interactive agency recruitment strategies that could encourage people from a greater variety of backgrounds and with differing experiences to pursue a career in law enforcement. For him, “caring and sharing” in recruitment would help change the culture that Little mentioned and improve law enforcement overall.
During a Q&A session, Little and Millner touched on topics such as police funding, their experiences with institutional racism in the New York State Police, and what law enforcement diversity looks like in local cities such as Utica. Michael “Doc” Woods, the Margaret Bundy Scott Professor of Music at Hamilton, provided a musical interlude and history lesson partway through the Q&A session, sharing Smokie Norful’s “I Need You Now.”
The Racial Justice and Criminal Justice in Oneida & Herkimer Counties Series continues next Wednesday, Oct. 14, with “Understanding the Use of Force.” The lecture was sponsored in part by the Levitt Center Law and Justice Lab.