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Preparing the Next Generation of Police: CJ Program Offers Vibrant Opportunities for Students Interested in Law Enforcement

Law Enforcement officer speaking with community members
November 30, 2023


Academics | Student Success

Responding to calls for change in American policing, Curry’s Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice faculty have updated and revised the Criminal Justice curriculum, including a new Law Enforcement (LE) concentration for students interested in pursuing policing, as well as offering engaging programming in and out of the classroom.

The Law Enforcement concentration adds some brand new coursework to make the program responsive to shifts in the discipline of policing: focusing more on community policing, the mental health needs of the community and police, and by empowering future police to be active bystanders in creating more humane and compassionate police forces. These revisions are meant to capture the changes in policing, to be responsive to communities and their needs, and to prioritize shifting from warrior to guardian roles whenever possible. New courses include “Law Enforcement Bystander, Ethics and Wellness,” and “Policing and Mental Health,” as well as revised courses on ethics in the justice system. These courses offer students the opportunity to practice their approach through role plays and interactive exercises, so students prepare for their career through real, hands-on exercises.  

Toward this initiative, faculty have also brought in diverse and vibrant guest speakers to complement the curriculum over the last year—several of whom are our own alumni! These guest speakers represent some of the most innovative and cutting-edge approaches in the field today. While several of our faculty have expertise in policing, the speakers bring in additional perspectives from the field, and offer students the opportunity to network about internships and future jobs:

  • In November, new faculty member Darin Devine brought in the Braintree Police Department’s Family Services Unit and Crisis Intervention Team to talk to his first-year class about CIT training and how policing has shifted to better meet the needs of the community, particularly those experiencing crises related to mental health, substance abuse, developmental disabilities or health.
  • Reinforcing this model, Lt. Brian Cohoon of the Braintree PD explained to students, “The sanctity of human life should be at the heart of everything we do.”
  • Earlier in the semester Professors Stephanie Cappadona and Willie Bradley hosted a panel of female police officers from the Boston Police Department (“Reel/Real Policing”), spanning different generations, to discuss some of the challenges modern policing faces, as well as some of the advances that have been made—particularly for women, and women of color-- in the field.
  • Last spring, the Department also hosted its Social Justice Series by hosting Joe Smarro from the (2019) HBO documentary Crisis Cops: Ernie and Joe, who spoke about a cutting-edge model of policing designed to assist those experiencing acute challenges in San Antonio, TX.

In these and other events, students were encouraged to ask questions and engage with the speakers.

Devine, a retired law enforcement officer, commented on the program: "What I love most about being with Curry College is the concerted effort among practitioners and academics. The entire department strives to make improvements in policing through sociological and psychological lenses when creating curriculum. The end product is an empathetic approach to better serve everyone, including underserved and diverse communities."

Through the new course offerings, Law Enforcement concentration, and the extra-curricular programming, faculty are preparing students to be part of the change students want to see in the field.