Tales of Justice

Multicultural issues in Criminal Justice

  • Alvernia Criminal Justice

The U.S. has always been a place that has attracted people from all over the world. Consequently, demographics are always changing. Because of the diverse nation, with cultures differing from town to town, community policing holds a dual purpose —maintaining order and building communities. Those in criminal justice field must be aware of the cultures in which they work.

These words were spoken by the Deputy Chief Ondra Berry of the Reno, Nevada Police Department in 2003, and they still ring true more than a decade later:

“Law enforcement is under a powerful microscope in terms of how citizens are treated. Minority and ethnic communities have become increasingly competent in understanding the role of law enforcement, and expectations of law enforcement for professionalism have been elevated from previous years. In an age when information about what happens in a police department on the East Coast speeds across to the West Coast in seconds, law enforcement officials must be aware. They must be vigilant. They must do the right thing.”

Alvernia course CJ 218 Multicultural Issues in Criminal Justice fulfills a bachelor’s degree student of criminal justice administration’s human diversity requirement.  It examines diversity issues as they impact criminal justice agencies both internally and externally on race, sex, religion, ethnicity and related subjects. Many community police forces also require and provide diversity training relevant to their communities.

Because those in criminal justice are first responders, constantly on the ground and in the community, working directly with citizens, they must be aware and understanding of the different cultures where they work.

Chapter One of the Pearson book Multicultural Law Enforcement: Strategies for Peacekeeping in a Diverse Society discusses the challenges law enforcement faces in a diverse community. It “begins with the need for an increased understanding of the diverse populations with which law enforcement officials interact.”

“A lack of knowledge of cultural differences can result in inadvertent violation of individuals’ rights as well as officer safety and risk issues,” the book states.

The chapter makes Eight Tips for Improving Law Enforcement in Multicultural Communities, including making positive contact with community group members from diverse backgrounds; not letting them see you only when something negative has happened; going out of your way to be personable and friendly with minority-group members; and taking responsibility for patiently educating citizens and the public about the role of the officer and about standard operating procedures in law enforcement.

In the end, awareness of cultural differences in any community, when it comes to criminal justice, will only move police forces and the communities they serve closer to a culture of partnership, collaboration and cooperation.

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