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Criminal Justice Instructor Hosts Lecture for Black History Month

Alex Nicholson, Editor

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As one of its events for Black History Month, NWC’s Office of Intercultural Programs held a lecture. Dave Patterson hosted the event and discussed the truths, misconceptions, and reform of the criminal justice system, especially regarding African Americans.

Dave Patterson, NWC’s instructor of criminal justice and a police officer for 31 years, spoke at the Intercultural House on February 16 on how the police ignore certain issues involving race and ethnicity. Patterson not only points out law enforcement’s external conflicts, but its own internal conflict caused by a lack of diversity and representation.

“Typically, police have ignored a lot of the issues with the African American community, or racial minorities, ethnic diversity,” said Patterson. “That for years was not at the top of our list in criminal justice or policing.”

Patterson said that he didn’t focus on racial and ethnic issues in great depth in his classes, but that during his education and career he spent a lot of time on race and ethnicity, as well as gender, in law enforcement. Patterson said that one thing he did talk about in one of his classes was law enforcement during the Civil Rights Movement, where it was evident that problems weren’t just caused by those who enforced the law, but also by those creating the law.

“So we’re just going to manipulate the system to where there were certain laws of color,” Patterson said. “You didn’t drink out of the same water fountains, you didn’t do certain things, you couldn’t ride on a certain place on the bus, and if you did, you got arrested, and then you got into the system, and then once you’re in the system, what happens? The cycle starts, and it’s hard to get out of the cycle.”

Patterson focused the discussion on disproportionate drug crime laws, the same subject as NWC’s first Black History Month Event. Patterson said that depending on the year, drug crimes made up approximately 48% of total incarcerated crimes, and that about “half of that half” was made up of African Americans.

Patterson also said that socioeconomic status played a part in who largely sold and bought drugs, and that it was more likely to be found in larger, and thus more diverse, areas. Combining those facts with systemic racism and a problem is created.

Preston Blackman, an electrical engineer major, made a comment during the event regarding his experience in the foster system. Blackman pointed out that, in his experience, African American families tended to be in the lower middle class, if not outright lower class.

“I was in the foster system for five years, and I went through fifteen different homes, probably six of them was with African American foster parents, and one of them was what I would consider wealthy,” Blackman said. “Or even middle class, where there was good food put on the table, where they actually made the meal.”

At the end of the lecture, Patterson detailed some population statistics for cities in the United States, pointing out comparisons between the general population and the number of police force members by race. For example, New York City has a 52% white population and 32% of the police force is white. New York has a 22% African American population and a 16% of the police force is African American. Patterson said that New York City has a very diverse police force, and that white people are surprisingly underrepresented in comparison to other races and ethnicities. This related to Patterson’s experience of representation in the police force, which is something he has worked on in improving with local police forces.

Patterson said that he was looking forward to the event, and that he had overprepared for it. While the event had a good turnout, most the attendees were in at least one of Patterson’s classes, and Patterson said that he was hoping for a more diverse group.

“I wish there would have been more opposing views, rather than my students nodding their head,” Patterson said.

Amanda Enriquez, the Intercultural Program Manager, said that this is only the second year NWC had a full event schedule for things like Black History Month or Women’s History Month. Enriquez said that it is difficult to guess who or how many will show up to the events, and that they largely depended on the subject and the speaker.

“I counted 20 people. That is pretty average for a talk event like this,” Enriquez said. “I think it went really well, a lot of students showed up. There is really no consistency with these events, I think it comes down to the speakers.”

Despite the lack of consistency, the fact that they have attendees is a good sign that people are interested in attending these events.

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Criminal Justice Instructor Hosts Lecture for Black History Month