Calling All Academics!
Here's an opportunity to put the fruits of your research to workBy Crawford Coates | Mar 17, 2017
Read any an article in the mainstream media about policing and I can almost guarantee that you will never hear from actual police officers. Instead—and especially at the purportedly more intellectual and serious end of the spectrum—you will read opinions and propositions from academics: that is, professors of criminal justice and law at the fancy schools.
Check out the New York Times and keyword search “police reform” to see what I mean. Or just check out the criminal justice-minded Marshall Project. Here’s the formula: Reporter talks with several academics and perhaps a like-minded police chief (or, more often, an ex-chief) about a shortcoming in police training or culture. Reporter types it up with a few transitional sentences, unattributed assertions, a zinger for a headline, and—done!
I recognize that patrol cops are many, with a diversity of opinions and experiences, and most probably wouldn’t want, or would be prevented by their agency, to go on the record. That’s unfortunate, because working around police officers for the last decade or so I’ve learned they have a lot to say and it’s based on earned experience. Most cops are, when it comes down to it, pretty articulate on these matters. But they don’t take talking to reporters lightly.
So I understand why journalists don’t seek out police. But here’s what I don’t understand: Why don’t academics at least try to speak directly to, and with, actual working police officers?
I’m being a little provocative with my framing of the question, but that’s because I’m looking for a response. I do mean it sincerely. In almost all my time of publishing in public safety I have received very few submissions from academics. Almost none, in fact. (Michael A. Orticelle is a rare and welcome exception, although he was actually a police officer too.)
Meanwhile I have, over the years, reached out to dozens of academics whose work I chanced upon while getting my news. Their response is usually no response at all or some variation of, “Sorry, I’m very busy.”
But never too busy for the Washington Post or Slate.com!
So if you’re an academic reading this and you think I’m being unfair, here’s the offer. Write an article for me. (I will pay you nothing. But academic journals don’t pay either, I know.) If you don’t have time for an article—a short one, say 900 words—then let’s set up an interview.
Here’s what you get in return: influence among American law enforcement. The reach of Calibre Press is wide and deep there. And it will be a two-way street, a conversation, because the audience will certainly respond. I can only think that would be a positive. My email is Crawford at CalibrePress.com.
If you’re a police officer reading this and you know an academic working in a discipline that can improve police work, please do me a favor and forward this article to them.
I have a huge respect for academics and researchers. In fact I got my start in publishing academics. I loved the content and the people pushing it. I know there are professors and researchers out there pursuing topics directly applicable to the American police officer on the beat right now—cutting-edge, important stuff. Rather than simply taking it to some high-brow mainstream outlet, thereby burnishing the perception among line-level officers that academics aren’t interested in their concerns, let’s work together.
Let’s change the conversation and, hopefully, make the world a better place in the process.