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Spring 2024 Seminar

Policing in America: The Good, the Bad and The Ugly

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No Exam

Law enforcement in the United States plays a critical, often life-altering role in its citizenry’s life. More than 19,000 local, state and federal law enforcement employ nearly 450,000 officers. Police officers are involved in the prosecution of approximately twelve million criminal offenses each year and conduct over 11 million arrests. They are also responsible for the deaths of about 950 people per year since 2015.

This seminar examines the establishment, role, and function of police in a democratic society. It will provide a foundation in the history of police and community relationships, police work, police culture/behavior, police discretion and control, police legitimacy and public support, community policing, use of force, institutional bias, and racial justice. We will also analyze why law enforcement is such a polarizing societal issue.

Experiences in the class will include conversations with local police commissioners and police officers, touring local prisons or jails, meetings with citizens whose lives have been impacted by their interaction with police officers, and a wide variety of written texts, including essays and case studies.