The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Forum reveals justice system flaws

By Sharon Murra-Kapon/south news editor

Minorities find it more difficult to enter into the criminal justice system, thus, creating emotional controversies, a group of panelists said during a South Campus forum recently.

Members of the Feb. 1 Crime and Punishment panel were from different branches of the law enforcement structure.

Debbie Pulliam, senior captain and South Division commander of the Fort Worth Police Department, said some of the barriers that exist between the criminal justice system and the community include the lack of recruitment of qualified minorities.

In addition, Pulliam said the statistics could not increase because of the extensive training and objective-based process. Pulliam also said the Fort Worth Police Department needs local recruits.

“ Out-of-state recruits do not care the same,” she said.

Sean D. Colton, assistant criminal district attorney, said there are social barriers or “perceptions in the community,” but a good appearance could help dissolve stereotypes.

“ Education can overcome them,” he said.

William Smith Jr., assistant professor of criminal justice on NW Campus and the moderator of the forum, said not enough males are graduating, and females are filling the classrooms.

Terry Lewis, municipal judge in Fort Worth, said lack of education is one of the greatest challenges that the criminal justice system faces. Educators could motivate students who are interested in law enforcement and let them know it is a very satisfying career and a great place from which to retire.

“ It is an essential job,” he said. “Start young.”

Pulliam said the age limit for applicants is 35 unless they have a military background.

Some of the panelists talked about how so many young people make wrong choices and have to pay the consequences later. To be eligible for these jobs, applicants must have a clean criminal background.

“ Young people are the future,” Smith said. “Making wrong decisions while young can really put a barrier in what you can do in the future.”

Another issue is the perception of the community toward law enforcement. Pulliam said Fort Worth has a very diplomatic, easy-going police force with a great reputation. She said the important thing for them is to foster this relationship with the community because they need the citizens’ involvement to combat crime. This relationship applies whether people are on the side of the law or not, she said.

“ People can be part of the solution or part of the problem,” Smith said.

The panel said people needed to be aware of their rights. Even if they are not eligible for the job, they should take topic-related classes, look into the court system and overcome injustices by claiming their rights.

Panelists said many times perceptions are based on racial lines or on assumptions and not facts.
Constance Barron-Lewis, recruiter for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, said she had to fight against the system. As one of the first black females in her division, she said being first was not easy, and at times, she felt like giving up.

“ I had to fight inside [myself] and outside,” she said.

Some attendees shared their experiences with the police officers and their feelings when pulled over because of racial perceptions.

Other students shared their emotional frustration with the system.

The panel said if students believe their situation is unfair, they should become involved and protest.

However, if students decide to protest, they also must accept the consequences. An example to that is Dr. Martin Luther King. He believed enough in his philosophy to go through the effects of it by being arrested and serving time in jail.

Lewis said criminal justice professionals are not all bad, but if members of the system give a wrong appearance, they will damage their credibility.

“ Overcome racial feelings being who you are, showing others what you can do,” he said.

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