Eighty percent of law enforcement officers and first responders are trained at a California community college. Eloy Ortiz Oakley, Chancellor of the California Community Colleges, said there are several “administration of justice” programs across the state that provide educational and professional development for law enforcement officers and first responders.
“We have a direct responsibility to ensure that our curriculum and our culture reflects what we want to see in policing today,” he said.
Redesigning curriculum with cultural competency is a top priority for Oakley.
“That means that curriculum reflects what we as a society want to see happen when these individuals take that education and training into the field,” he said. “While we can’t change everything that’s in society, we have to take our own individual responsibility to ensure that our education reflects the kind of culture we want to see reflected in our society.”
Oakley said community colleges need to be accountable to the communities they serve.
“Their community clearly wants to see us change the way that we train and educate police officers,” he said. “And we can work with our city law enforcement, our mayors in the different cities. Working together, I believe we can make it an impact.”
Oakley said it’s important for Angelenos to reflect on systemic racism in the U.S. and how the pandemic has greatly impacted people of color.
“We have a responsibility first and foremost to every student that walks into our doors, whether they’re going to become law enforcement individuals, whether they’re going to become first responders, to ensure that we have a culture on campus that reflects the needs, desires, and hopes of the communities that we serve, particularly communities of color and low-income communities.”
Calls for changes in law enforcement tactics have been made before.
“Being born and raised in Southern California, it seems like just yesterday I watched the brutal beating of Rodney King, and here we are today seeing worse images on television, so it feels like we have not only not gone forward, it seems like we're going backwards,” Oakley said. “We have to take action, and I think that's the missing piece. We have to get beyond the words into the action.”
For the California Community Colleges, taking action means discussing expectations for how law enforcement officers should operate and interact with students on campuses.
“We need to ensure that as we're working with local police departments, local sheriff departments, or training and hiring our own security forces, that we have clear expectations on how we want them to police on our campuses. We cannot just sit back and say, ‘That's just a law enforcement job.’ We have to infuse our expectations about what we want to see, the way we want to see our students treated, particularly students of color and especially Black and African American students,” Oakley said.
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