By Kaiyo Funaki
In light of the recent police brutality and the ensuing nationwide demonstrations, City College’s administration of justice (ADMJ) department continues to redevelop its approach to law enforcement to best prepare students for a career burdened with intense pressure.
The murders of Geoge Floyd and Breonna Taylor reignited the public’s frustration with law enforcement, creating some of the most challenging circumstances for students considering careers in law enforcement.
The death of Floyd provided Captain of SFPD Special Operations Bureau Dominic Yin, a police officer for the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) since 1995, and a professor at City College since 1999, the opportunity to reflect on his career.
“I couldn’t even believe it. I was ashamed to put on the uniform,” Yin said. “I love being a police officer, but there’s a need for a change in [law enforcement] culture.”
This deteriorating relationship necessitated a department-wide discussion over police brutality and the need for increased cultural awareness and sensitivity, as they looked to redefine what it means to be a representative of this profession and academic institution.
Though the professors interviewed by The Guardsman had varying opinions regarding the Black Lives Matter and the Defund the Police movements, there was a general consensus that embracing conversation would serve as the first step in fixing the fractured relationship between law enforcement and the public.
Colleen Fatooh, a 31-year veteran of the SFPD, City College educator for the last eight years and Interim City College Chief of Police in 2019, stressed this variable as the key to uniting people of different ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
“I cherish the opportunity to hold discussions with my students of all backgrounds and walks of life to discuss the things that are hard to talk about,” Fatooh said.
“I think it’s important that students are comfortable having an open dialogue. This is an opportunity to come up with some solutions…[by] sharing experiences, being open, being willing to accept other people’s ideas,” she said.
Greg Miraglia, who has over 35 years of experience working with three different police departments and began teaching at City College just last year, analyzed the current shift in the law enforcement landscape.
“There are lots of conversations on how we can do more with de-escalation training, do more with community policing training, and do more with cultural competence training across the state,” he said. “All of those changes and modifications will be built into academies like the one San Francisco offers, and the one City College supports.”
Progress in the Curriculum
Even before the murder of George Floyd, the ADMJ department began updating the curriculum to improve interactions between law enforcement and historically disenfranchised members of society.
Miraglia talked about a new course and certificate currently in the approval process by the curriculum board “that really focuses on the relationship between law enforcement and the LGBTQ community.”
“The conversation about how we can provide training to law enforcement to increase our cultural competence on sexual orientation and gender identity was happening way before George Floyd,” he said.
Yin also designed a course about law enforcement in Asian-American communities that is especially important in a city that prides itself on cultural and ethnic diversity.
Though it has yet to gain enough traction to be listed in the course catalog, it was officially passed by the curriculum board in 2016, and Yin is hopeful that he will be able to teach it in the near future.
Tobin Jones of The Guardsman recently reported an 18% decrease in enrollment at City College from last year to this semester that can be partly attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, yet neither the pandemic nor the civil unrest has appeared to disrupt the interest in this particular field.
Even with the ongoing clash between the public and law enforcement, all of the instructors interviewed by The Guardsman highlighted that their courses continued to see steady enrollment across the department.
Though exact figures were not available, Fatooh urged students to continue to enroll and be the catalyst for improvement.
“If you don’t like what’s happening in these police departments… change comes from within. We need good people in the police department… who are committed, who are dedicated, that want to be that change,” she said.
However, Miraglia also suggested the importance of the ADMJ classes not only for future members of law enforcement but for activists seeking to create change.
“Interested citizens need to be educated… [ADMJ] classes are as important for future law enforcement professionals as it is for activists. Activists need to know how the system works… so that they can learn how to make change,” Miraglia added.