Beginning the Dialogue: Broward College Helping to Improve Relationships between Law Enforcement and the Community
It’s becoming harder to watch the news or read the paper without some conflict between police and citizens taking center stage. Tensions are at an all-time high with hostility bubbling over each passing day. There is a level of uneasiness when it comes to officers and the neighborhoods they have sworn to protect.
However, even before recent incidents, Broward College was taking a proactive approach to bringing issues to the forefront. The institution knew early on how important it was to address these growing concerns through a number of programs and events.
Among the programs is C.O.P.S. (Community of Police and Students) program. The initiative has hosted forums to create constructive dialogue and help bridge the communicational gap between students, members of law enforcement and cadets from the institution’s Police Academy.
In the past, political science groups and African American history classes have engaged in discussions with faculty and active officers. For the College, it is important to connect students and these future pillars of the community with law enforcement in a meaningful way, resulting in an improved mutual understanding.
C.O.P.S. members have also experienced what goes on at the Academy for a few days as unofficial cadets. These individuals are jointly selected by Dr. Lulrick Balzora, associate dean of social and behavioral sciences, and Janine Czarnec, associate dean of criminal justice training. Students are given the opportunity to shadow cadets, gaining more insight into the teaching and training for future members of law enforcement.
They participate in classroom lectures, physical fitness and even work on simulators. The volunteers wear the uniform and participate in other activities as dictated by the curriculum that day. Since the program began, participants have walked away seeing officers in another light and with a new level of respect. At the same time the cadets get an exercise in working with civilians.
Task Force on Law Enforcement
The Task Force on Law Enforcement and Community Relations is a group composed of South Florida leaders was established by United States representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Alcee Hastings two years ago.
Dr. Deborah Posner, dean of institutional planning and effectiveness for the College, initially organized and facilitated Task Force meetings. After stepping aside, Balzora joined the committee to represent Broward College based on the recommendations of Greg Haile, general counsel and vice president of public affairs and government affairs and Linda Wood, dean for the Institute of Public Safety.
The mission for the Task Force builds upon what Broward College was already doing. Balzora, who has been with the institution since 2002, takes pride in being a part of the Task Force. He found out early on during meetings that they already had established relationships with a strong network of interested parties eager to make a difference. Since joining, he has worked with the committees and subcommittees to elicit input from young people in the community.
With every endeavor, the hope is to generate a report based on what they have done to the Florida legislature at the end of the year.
The Task Force hosted a unity meeting on July 17 and were joined by dignitaries including keynote speaker Michael Nutter, former mayor of Philadelphia. He stressed the importance of having the elements of trust, training and transparency in the conversation.