(Article by Student Lowell Bennett*) Professor Margaret Dixon and her Administration of Justice team assembled an impressive panel of expert guests spanning the continuum from the District Attorney to to Police Management who joined Merritt College student panelists on April 20 for a discussion on “Finding Hope and Trust in the Criminal Justice System.” Most of the major criminal justice constituents were represented,and gave powerful input. While all the panelists shed light on many of the issues involved in the system, what quickly became clear is that every sector present was quite “woke” and aware of the subtle and not so subtle ways in which the system needs to be changed. It was also quite clear that although there is a still a long way to go, “hope and trust” is being found and is actually being actively built by the public, the legal community and the police.
The two Merritt College students in the Administration of Justice Program, Juan Lopez and Jerold Robinson, who is President of the Black Student Union, brought a unique perspective and asked tough questions, especially those directed at the police officials in attendance. For example, Robinson asked, “Have you ever thought that it is the (police) policies that are causing the problems in the community?” The questions, along with those from the audience of current and former students, focused on community interaction with police, and why and what to do when those interactions go wrong, and how should the interactions go if the officers are following their training, and what is the training?
The questions of the student panelists, along with questions some of the other students in the audience, had been developed previously in their class as an assignment from Ms. Dixon, who leads the Administration of Justice Program, and had planned the day’s theme and invited the guests. “I really wanted to get a student perspective so they could get some clarification and make it engaging for the audience, so I asked the students to develop questions they wanted to ask each panelist,” says Ms. Dixon. “After the event, some of the panelists from OPD, told me they were so impressed with the questions that they planned to go back and explore some of the information they got and may think differently about some of the issues.”
*Lowell Bennett studies African-American Studies and Administration of Justice at Merritt College. He is a member of the Black Student Union and a tutor in the Learning Center. He holds BSIE and MBA degrees from Stanford University and is a CFA charter holder. He wrote this article for his Juvenile Procedures course and it was edited for The Merritt Connection. To see the full-length article, go to https://bit.ly/2wGZwZ9.
(Pictured above, posing after the event, are: Criminal Justice Club President Elliot Masouredis, Oakland Deputy Chief LaRonne Armstrong, SF Assistant District Attorney Julia Gonzales, Defense Attorney John Burris, Oakland Police Sergeant Aaron Smith, OPD Captain Drennon Lindsey (also a Merritt instructor), Margaret Dixon, and Dr. James Taylor.