Criminal justice students learn from Ferguson unrest
MADISON, Wis. — Inside a classroom at Madison College, law enforcement students are learning a history lesson written a little more than three months ago. When Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, it set off weeks of violent protests. It also became a case study for law enforcement.
“The case study is how the community and how the police department handled the incident immediately following the shooting,” said Brian Landers, the chair of the criminal justice department at Madison College.
Landers said law enforcement students can learn a great deal from studying actual events.
“Just as much as the Rodney King incident is still being discussed in classrooms today, you have Kent State is still being discussed today. There are all kinds of incidents, whether law enforcement was right or wrong or whether government was right or wrong, that are being used and looked at,” Landers said.
He said when looking at the failures of Ferguson you need to go back years before Michael Brown was shot.
“Unfortunately I think that this incident in Ferguson was years in the making,” Landers said.
He said the disconnect between the police and the community of Ferguson predated Brown’s shooting on Aug. 9 and served as a catalyst for the trouble that followed.
“When there is misunderstanding or distrust there, it just leads to speculation, it leads to potential areas of mistrust and violence,” Landers said. “There needs to be a focus and training aspects that police understand that they are part of the community. They are not there to always be the police of the community. They are part of the community so they better be in touch as to what the community expects from them and what the issues are in the community.”
It is a lesson the criminal justice students at Madison College are getting to learn in the classroom. It is a lesson that might one day help them avoid the mistakes of Ferguson.
“The most important lesson is that every single police officer needs to take a good look at their patch and a good look at their badge and realize who employs them,” Landers said.