Pa. college offers course to bridge gap between police and community

The project-based course gives students and law enforcement a chance to see each other's perspectives


By Kathleen Bolus
The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

FACTORYVILLE, Pa. — To help criminal justice students and law enforcement officers understand each other's perspectives, Keystone College is offering a unique course that opens a dialogue between the groups.

The project-based course, "Bridging Perspectives: Critical Conversations for Students and Police," gives students and members of the law enforcement community a chance to meet in a socially distant classroom to engage in conversations during the course of the semester. During the class — created by the International Association of Chiefs of Police — the group will discuss social, racial and criminal justice issues.

Keystone College/Facebook

Keystone is inviting members of the local law enforcement community to enroll in the course, which begins in January, at no cost in the form of a scholarship in recognition of their service to the community. They will receive three credits.

Associate Professor Stacey Wyland, who will teach the class, discovered the course at the end of August through the IACP.

The course is built around three core objectives for the students and police, according to the IACP:

Use tools to constructively engage in difficult conversations.

Build a mutual understanding of everyone's different perspectives and narratives on community and police issues, especially as it relates to policing in local communities.

Build a vision for a shared future with stronger community-police relationships.

Keystone criminal justice instructor Ray Hayes, a former state police officer, is also involved in planning the course. He hopes students learn the importance of understanding the communities that officers serve.

"To have success in terms of policing, you have to understand all the different cultural demographics and needs within the community," he said.

He called the course unique in that it gets police and students learning together both in the classroom and in the community.

"We really look at our students as law enforcement leaders of tomorrow and that we hope that they grow and evolve to meet a lot of the changes occurring in the communities they serve," said Hayes.

While the course is initially open only to students studying criminal justice, Wyland hopes to eventually offer the course to all Keystone College students.

"By the end of the course, I hope that moving forward that both sides have a shared vision for what needs to happen in the future to make policing more community-oriented," she said.

Police officers and other members of the law enforcement community who wish to participate should contact Wyland at stacey.wyland@keystone.edu or 570-709-5327; or Hayes at ray.hayes@keystone.edu or 570-290-2244.

(c)2020 The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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