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October 9, 2015 – Local law enforcement officers from Fort Valley State University and the Middle Georgia community spoke to university students about the challenges of policing and the perception of racial bias during a Policing and Race Panelist held forum on campus recently. The campus held its Policing and Race Forum on Sept. 17.
Dr. Uppinder Mehan, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said he launched the event to spark intellectual discussions on campus regarding the recent slate of publicized police shootings.
“One of the things I get an opportunity to do is to bring experts here on campus to speak about important topics,” Mehan said.
Dr. Julius Trimble, a criminal justice professor on campus and former criminal lawyer, moderated the panel that included FVSU Campus Safety Police Chief Kenneth Morgan, City of Fort Valley Police Department Chief Lawrence Spurgeon and City of Warner Robins Police Chief Brett Evans.
Morgan spoke about his career in law enforcement and about several high-profile cases that included the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the fatal shooting of Samuel Dubose on the University of Cincinnati campus. He told students that he was inspired to become a police officer because of his father, who also served as one.
Morgan said he saw the police violence against Rodney King.
“I promised I would never be a part of it, personally,” said Morgan who noted other police offices should have not allowed the incident to progress to that point. He argued, however, that the use of force by police officers is sometimes warranted. He said that circumstances of a police stop and suspect’s reaction can sometimes dictate the police response and action.
Evans said proper training was necessary to ensure that officers didn’t go over the line.
“Use of force is one thing, excessive force is another,” Evans said. He also said it was important for police officers keep up with their training and education, and to build relationships with individuals in the community they were policing, adding good policing starts with good leadership.
“If a police officer doesn’t have standards or ethics, then they will have a problem when they deal with people,” Evans said.
Spurgeon, an FVSU alum that graduated in 1995, joined the police force and remained for 21 years. The current City of Warner Robins police chief was in investigations for 14 years. He said economic and racial disparities were in the mix when policing the public.
“The paradigm I’ve learned is this: so much of law enforcement is subjective. We need to understand things from another person’s perspective,” Spurgeon stated. “I encourage police to be as transparent as possible and to have engaging dialogue with the community.”
The forum wrapped up with a question and answer session with students.
Caption: Dr. Uppinder Mehan, Fort Valley State University’s College of Arts and Sciences dean, addresses audience at “Policing and Race” Forum on Sept. 17.
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