On Wednesday, April 14, the Eastern New Mexico University Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice presented a panel on police and society.

The panel focused on society’s relationship to the police, including topics such as the Black Lives Matter movement, police funding, racial bias, and the media’s effect on these subjects. The panel featured presentations from Dr. Omar Camarillo, Dr. DeAris Hoard, Dr. Chelsea Star and Dr. Kristin Waldo, all of whom are professors at ENMU with focuses in sociology and or criminal justice. The event was facilitated by Dr. Michelle Schmidt, a professor of sociology at ENMU.

Schmidt began by noting, “the relationship between police and society is a direct concern for scholars, activists, community members, and police officers themselves. It’s received increasing public attention since the Black Live Matter Movement… many police departments, communities, academic, and policy circles have been working to question and reconfigure problematic elements in this relationship to provide a safer and more inclusive environment for communities and officers in the future.”

Camarillo presented first, he discussed the media and its’ portrayal of victims of police brutality. He studied the media’s coverage of the recent shooting of Daunte Wright and compared Fox News and CNN’s coverage. He analyzed keywords, framing devices, reasoning devices and cultural resonance.

Camarillo said that “some of the frames [he] found, for Fox News, was humanization.” He added that they used key words to set up a negative perception of Wright, by using key words such as the warrant that was out for him.

Camarillo noted that for CNN, the network worked to humanize Wright being a son and boyfriend, and also mentioned that it was a non-felony warrant. Camarillo add that both networks used selective sources, but the CNN included sources such as the Governor of Minnesota and even President Biden.

Hoard presented next with a presentation focused on other responsibilities of law enforcement and other first responders. He also broke down data that showed an increased need mental health services as a part of new teams of first responders.

Hoard said, “there is a significant ability for law enforcement agencies to work cooperatively with non-law enforcement partners.” He also mentioned that these partners could include social workers, therapists, and case workers.

Starr followed this with a presentation about what activists mean when they say, “defund the police.” She mentioned that there is a spectrum of activism with liberals and radicals. Starr said that liberals want to reform the existing law enforcement system, while radicals want to build an entirely new one.

Starr also explained a system in Eugene, Oregon, where they redirect calls pertaining to substance abuse, mental health, and homelessness to a different agency of operators to assess the situation. She noted that both the police and public in the community have reacted positively.

The final speaker was Waldo, she explained the meaning and research of shooter bias. She said that shooter bias is a “racially biased pattern that is uncovered” in trials of police officers. She also explained that shooter bias is studied through computer simulations.

In the question-and-answer period after the presentations, Waldo also said “that we as a society need to recognize that we have systemic and historic issues regarding race.”

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