From March 10–14, 2009, I attended the ACJS conference, held this year in Boston. A police officer from San Diego Calif., I attended this conference both as a police officer of 16 years and as a part-time adjunct college professor. I must say, for one of my first academic association sponsored conferences, I was impressed. Kudos to the organizers and the ACJS for putting on a great conference and bringing so many of the great minds in criminal justice together in one location to share their research with the community, allowing everyone to learn from the efforts of others.
Many police supervisors aren’t sure if this is the type of conference to which they should be sending their people. One of the first steps in evaluating such a conference is to examine the mission of associations like the ACJS. The ACJS promotes criminal justice education, research and policy analysis within the discipline of criminal justice for both educators and practitioners. Conferences like this are an excellent way to bring practitioners and academics together. But why is this important?
When I say practitioners , I’m typically referring to the cops on the street enforcing laws on a daily basis, the social workers dealing with at-risk youth every day, the corrections officers working in the prisons, and the probation and parole agents trying to maintain compliance, to name just a few. When I say academics , I’m typically referring to the full- and part-time college professors and professional researchers who teach criminal justice across the country; the ones who evaluate the effectiveness of law enforcement practices.
As a police officer, I like to know that what I’m doing is having a real impact on reducing crime in my community. If it’s not, maybe we should redirect our limited resources to the programs and projects we determine to have a real positive impact.
This conference provided a forum for disseminating ideas related to issues in research, policy, education, and practice within the field. It was interesting to hear researchers, officers and even some students provide details and results of their research. Many of the programs discussed have potential application regardless of where you reside, attacking a drug market in Chicago or Boston can be similar to programs in Los Angeles and Seattle. The process of watching the presentations made me think about what we do in my jurisdiction and gave me ideas about some programs we may want to think about replicating. Why recreate the wheel? If the police in Boston are having success in reducing gun crimes, the cops in Detroit or Washington, D.C., may find the same strategy beneficial.
I had the opportunity to deliver three 15-minute presentations: The first was about the effectiveness of gang injunctions; the second was an assessment of practical gang-related training programs; the third was a last-minute fill-in discussion comparing gang enforcement efforts and strategies in Boston and San Diego, contrasting how police address the same issue on opposing coasts.
The conference had about 2,000 such presentations to choose from. Conference attendees could pick and choose the break-out lectures they found interesting from a comprehensive catalog that each participant received at registration. Many of the presentations were specific programs from around the country and the world, evaluating program and policy effectiveness.
As a cop, I can see tremendous benefits the average police officer would derive with regard to learning what active sociologists and researchers are doing to understand crime. I also found it interesting to discover the theoretical foundation for many of the current programs implemented by law enforcement. I met interesting people I may otherwise never have had the opportunity to meet.
I recommend all police supervisors give conferences like this one serious consideration, either to attend yourselves or to approve for your officers who wish to attend.