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Contributing to Research and Discussions in the Criminal Justice Field

By Leischen Stelter, editor of In Public Safety

On March 21-25, criminal justice faculty members from American Military University (AMU) will present at the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) annual conference in Kansas City, Missouri. This conference brings together criminal justice academics and practitioners from around the country to present and discuss some of the most relevant topics in the field.

Seven of AMU’s faculty members will be among those covering a wide range of important and pressing issues facing law enforcement today.

Dr. Chuck Russo

Dr. Chuck Russo, program director for AMU’s Criminal Justice program, will co-present with Dr. Stephanie Hunziker in a session titled, PTSD: Is it Pension Worthy?, about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in policing. “Agencies have put programs and policies in place to help personnel recover from the abnormal and often horrific events they are exposed to as officers,” said Russo. “But what happens when personnel are unable to return to work due to their experiences?” Russo and Hunziker will discuss whether PTSD should qualify law enforcement personnel to receive a disability pension or workers’ compensation benefits.

[Related: Police Officers Face Cumulative PTSD]

criminal justice
Dr. Dena Weiss

Dr. Michelle Beshears and Dr. Dena Weiss will present a paper arguing for the enactment of uniform legislation regarding sex offender registration and community notification laws. Their presentation, Sex Offender Community Notification Law Reform: A Call for More Active, Consistent, and Detailed Information About High Risk Offenders, details the problems with offender management systems around the country and highlights a system that would improve how the criminal justice system shares information with the public about these offenders.

[Related: Is Our Approach to Sex Offender Risk and Policy on the Mark?]

criminal justice
Dr. Michael Beshears

Dr. Michael Beshears will be presenting with Dr. Mark Bond. They will focus their presentation on narcissism in policing. “Leaders in policing organizations must be cognizant of and discourage narcissistic behavior in the best interest of their departments and the communities they serve,” said Beshears. Those working in public safety must be empathetic and caring, which are important characteristics for building high-quality community relationships. “If individuals with narcissistic tendencies are not addressed by leaders, these personally traits may undermine and destroy an agency’s community efforts,” said Beshears.

[Related: Public Safety Leadership: Be Cautious of Extreme Narcissists]

In addition to faculty presentations, AMU students will also be presenting during ACJS. Joshua Adams, who recently graduated with a master’s degree in Criminal Justice, will present his research entitled, Studies on Police Legitimacy and Race Relations, Post-Ferguson. Adams’ presentation will explore the “Ferguson Effect” and its impact on the perception of community-oriented policing efforts. One issue Adams tackles is how police officers may be hesitant to perform their duties due to fear of reprisal from supervisors and potential criticism from the media. Adams explores whether this tendency may contribute to the recent spike in crime in major cities across the country.

We asked these faculty members why attending and presenting at professional conferences is valuable to them. Here’s what they had to say:

Gaining a Fresh Perspective

Participating in a conference can often lead to new insight, resources and assistance. “Presenting at a conference enables the researcher to obtain valuable feedback that may assist in overcoming an identified hurdle or finding a partner to help with and/or continue the work,” said Russo.

Such feedback often stems from a question and answer session at the conclusion of a presentation when the audience has a chance to ask the researcher questions. “Those in the audience may have different perspectives and think of certain aspects of the topic that eluded the researcher,” he said. “Audience members may aid in expanding the research topic or in the applicability of the topic.”

Dr. Michael Beshears agreed that attending presentations can help reshape your views on a topic. “Oftentimes, attending sessions will encourage you to think about other areas of research and topics in a way that you may not have previously considered,” said Beshears.

Building a Network of Contacts

Attending and presenting at a conference is an excellent way to meet others who are interested in or involved in similar research ideas. “Simply attending these conferences is an invaluable opportunity to expand your network and meet other professionals around the nation who share similar interests and expertise,” said Beshears.

“Typically, presentations are grouped by similar topics or audiences so a presenter can often meet others who share their passion towards a topic or are attempting to reach a similar audience,” said Russo. “This can lead to collaborative projects and resource sharing.”

Many conferences attract attendees from across the country and sometimes even further. Events that focus on bringing in an international audience should appeal even more to researchers. “This allows the presenter to potentially reach beyond borders and develop and cultivate relationships with professionals from around the world,” said Russo.

Finding potential collaborators is very important to Drs. Dena Weiss and Michelle Beshears. “Expanding our professional networks and establishing strategies with diverse scholars enhances our approach to researching topics and exploring theories that may result in new knowledge,” they wrote in an article highlighting the importance of collaboration in the criminal justice field.

Ultimately, the goal of attending such conferences and presenting research is to share knowledge with others and continue to build a body of research that can help both academics and practitioners better understand problems and solutions that can improve the criminal justice field.


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