PAPA and issues of policing power

This weekend, the Department of Public Administration and Policy Analysis (PAPA) will conduct a weekend course that is sure to tackle controversial topics. The course is PAPA499/599-901 Public Security and Emergency Preparedness and is directed at upper level undergraduate and graduate students. Morris Taylor, associate professor of PAPA, will facilitate the course.

Friday evening, the course begins with a speaker from the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri (ACLUEM). Redditt Hudson, a former St Louis police officer and the current Ira Glasser Racial Justice Fellow of ACLUEM will speak to the class on issues surrounding good and bad policing.

“I do a lot of work with the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. I used to be their Ira Glasser Racial Justice Fellow from 2004-2005,” said Taylor. “And when I left, Mr. Hudson essentially came in and took over that position. What he is going to talk about when he comes in is basically policing in the context of abuses, if you will, of policing. What has happened is the course has taken a turn with respect to good policing and bad policing and how does that effect the quality of public security in the United States, broadly defined.”

Taylor, a former St. Louis police officer himself, stated there are several issues that he believes will be addressed during the course.

“A 60 Minutes article had to do with the police use of tasers. That’s a big issue because there have been some deaths as a result of tasers and the question becomes, because officers have so much discretion is whether or not they are using these things in an indiscriminate, non-professional manner. That issue will invariably come up and issues of police brutality will invariably come up.”

Taylor stated that the course also delves into issues of what the proper role of police officers should be. The course looks at the history of police in the U.S. and how that history ties into the concept of public security. He stated that many times officers are expected to do jobs that are outside of the description of the police duties.

“One of the things we are trying to struggle with is how safe are we really because we ask the police to do so much. It’s not just law enforcement –which is most of the time not law enforcement, it’s calls for service–but it’s one of those things where we ask them to be policemen, psychologists, social worker, teacher, father, son, daughter, whatever it takes to resolve whatever the social issue we have,” said Taylor.

The course also looks into the arguments surrounding how tax money could or should be spent on policing. Taylor stated that the police often end up as the default agency because there are not many other agencies that are on the clock 24-hours a day.

“It’s a great topic,” said Taylor. “It’s one of those issues that most people don’t think about–public security–until they need it. It’s almost analogous to an insurance policy. Chances are you’ll never need it but when you need it, you need it really bad. And when you want your police to respond, you want the people responding to be professional and take action when necessary. But because they have such tremendous power and broad discretion, that discretion and power has to be checked because there have been historical abuses.”

The course will be on Friday from 5:30-9:30 and Saturday from 8:30-5 in Alumni Hall 3401. Morris stated that there may be room for additional students to attend but it will be limited by space. Contact the PAPA office for additional information at (618) 650-3762.

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