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Bethune-Cookman University Criminal Justice Program Leads the Way: Effective Law Enforcement and Community Engagement


In recent years, the level of scrutiny and tension between law enforcement and some of the communities they serve has become an area of deep concern. Deep mistrust and fear between law enforcement and some of the communities (typically minority) have increased as a result of recent highly charged shootings of unarmed black suspects, as well as police assassinations. Many attribute the growing levels of mistrust and fear of law enforcement within the minority community to the media and video footage (cell phones & body cameras) which often highlights negative police and community encounters.  It does not matter whether the encounter occurs in Anchorage, Alaska or in Washington, D.C.; the impact is felt by law enforcement everywhere.  It is widely believed that these negative encounters travel faster, longer, and farther than positive encounters.  Contrastingly, some members of the minority community contend that “guilt by association” and/or race have long been a reality of life in their dealings with law enforcement and other societal institutions.  In either case, when wrongfully applied, it erodes the level of trust needed to ensure the safety of all communities and the law enforcement professionals that serve them.

Although tactical training and preparation for law enforcement professionals has evolved significantly, this has not been the case in the areas of community engagement and communication training and skills. The expectations (realistic and unrealistic) of law enforcement professionals have increased significantly.   Today, law enforcement professionals are being asked to serve as social workers, mediators, mental health experts, animal control workers, mentors, parental surrogates, sociologists, and everything in between.  While it is widely recognized that there will be challenges ahead for law enforcement and the communities that they serve in the effort to ensure a safe and nurturing environment to live and raise a family, a strengthened relationship between law enforcement and the community that is grounded in mutual trust and two-way accountability makes this goal achievable!  

To this end, Bethune-Cookman University’s Justice and Society Studies Department and Center for Law and Social Justice are offering innovative training opportunities for law enforcement professionals and community stakeholders throughout Florida.  The first training session was held May 12, 2017, on the campus of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida.  The innovative and interactive 8-hour training entitled “Getting Beyond the Mistrust” was attended by more than 20 law enforcement professionals from across the state.  The law enforcement professionals in attendance were challenged with highly volatile situational scenarios and required to identify both traditional and non-traditional strategies to effectively engage the community before, during, and after each scenario. 

The facilitation of law enforcement training opportunities is an essential component of a recently implemented collaborative effort between Florida’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (FL HBCUs), the Florida Sheriff’s Association, and the Florida Police Chiefs Association aimed at identifying and recruiting high-quality minority law enforcement professionals.  The FL HBCUs that are a part of this effort led by Bethune-Cookman University (Daytona Beach) include Edward Waters College (Jacksonville), Florida A & M University (Tallahassee), and Florida Memorial University (Miami).  These institutions provide an ideal venue to recruit a diverse array of future minority law enforcement professionals.  Florida HBCUs have approximately 1,500+ students (undergraduate/graduate) majoring in criminal justice and related fields. 

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About Bethune Cookman University:

Founded in 1904 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) today sustains her legacy of faith, scholarship, and service through its relationship with the United Methodist Church and its commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement.  B-CU offers 38 degrees on its main campus and online college. Located in Daytona Beach, B-CU is one of three private, historically black colleges in the state of Florida. The institution boasts a diverse and international faculty and student body of nearly 4,000.  For more information, visit

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