Civic Engagement and Volunteerism Office hosts faculty chat Monday

Julie Zaborowski, Staff Reporter

Eastern’s Civic Engagement and Volunteerism Office is hosting a series of events to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., one held Monday was a faculty chat on the topic of policing in the United States.

Among those events is an online chat with Caitlin Lynch, a new professor at Eastern Illinois University in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology. Lynch is a former police officer having left the police force in 2013.

Speaking via Zoom from her home office, Lynch participated in this chat and spoke about three different eras in police interactions with African Americans.

Lynch began her chat speaking about the pre-police era which began in 1704. At this time slave patrols began to emerge. Slave patrols were organized groups of armed men who monitored and enforced discipline upon slaves.

Slave patrols are widely considered to be the first step toward having a real police system.

Lynch then spoke about the reform era which was the period of time that policing was professionalized. She explained that up until 1905 there was no training for police officers.

At the end of the reform era came the civil rights movement where the African American population began to fight for equal rights. During the civil rights movement the police were often used to push back on equal rights efforts. The last era Lynch spoke about was the community problem solving era which she says is going on in the United States now.

In this era people are pushing for police reform. Some police reform legislation aims to make changes to the values, culture, policies and practices of police departments.

Lynch said police reform will not come from individual officers.

“Police reform won’t happen at the officer level because police don’t have that much control,” Lynch said. “It’s a social institution and police are pawns of the state. In order for things to change it need to begin at the top.”

She went on to explain that another reason why police reform might be more difficult to achieve is because it is hard to hold police officers accountable. Lynch added that officers can justify the amount of force they use and she referred to the Tennessee v. Garner lawsuit which states that an officer can shoot someone if they fear for their life.

She indicated that this is why it is so rare to see a police officer in trouble.

Lynch also spoke on the Black Lives Matter movement and Blue Lives Matter movement.

“You can support Blue Lives Matter but you can also want them to do better,” she said.

When speaking about how divided this topic can make people, Lynch said it should not have sides.

“I think white people really need to talk about race. When Blue Lives Matter was created it was created to mock Black Lives Matter and to discredit them. We should need to recognize that most police are good people but they exist within this problematic social institution and a lot of people feel conflicted between Blue Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter,” Lynch said. “There shouldn’t be sides.”


Julie Zaborowski can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]