Charlottesville sheriff joins task force to examine criminal justice programs at Virginia Community Colleges

Published: Jul. 13, 2020 at 7:33 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Virginia’s Community College System is reevaluating how it teaches police officers.

Criminal justice degrees are some of the most popular programs at community colleges. With calls for police reform echoing nationwide the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) has created a task force to take a look at how it trains the next generation of law enforcement officers. In that job, they are calling on Charlottesville Sheriff James Brown to help.

“I’ve been in the criminal justice field for 25 years,” Brown said. “In law enforcement for 16 years, and the last 10 being a sheriff.”

Even as a law enforcement officer, as a Black man he’s had his own negative experiences with police. “There have been times when I’ve been stopped for matching the description of someone,” he recalled. “It was wasn’t the most pleasant experience,”

Now, he’s taking those perspectives and using them to help train future officers as Virginia’s Community Colleges take a hard look at their training.

“They want to look at the curriculum and see what things they can do to increase diversity, equity, ethics, they’re things they want to work on,” Brown said.

It’s work that Piedmont Virignia Community College (PVCC) says is already underway. Dean Olugbemiga Adekunle, who oversees the police science program at PVCC, says that the college has been working to increase the dialogue and promote equality through civic engagement.

“To focus on building student leaders with a strong commitment to democracy and diversity,” Adekunle said. “As well as engaging in civic life in their communities in a collaborative, creative way.”

Before making recommendations to the VCCS, the task force will also get input from members of the community. Community members will be asked about the changes they would like to see made to the future of criminal justice across the state.

“This is just one of the things that is being done to address some of the issues with law enforcement community, to make sure that folks are getting the training, education, that would help them become a better officer,” Brown explained.

Sheriff Brown says the work of the commission is actually just beginning. The group has had one meeting so far, and it is not clear when their recommendations will be ready. They plan to continue to hold meetings throughout the fall semester.

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