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Last year, the Pew Research Center released the results of a survey on Americans’ public confidence in groups ranging from scientists to the military. The poll revealed a decreasing share of public trust in the police. While roughly two-thirds of respondents describe having only a “fair amount” of trust in law enforcement, those answering that they have a “great deal of confidence” in the police fell from 26 percent to 20 percent between November 2020 to December 2021. Statistics confirm that young adults are “much less trusting of police” than middle-aged and older adults.

Initiatives to “defund” the police may be losing momentum, but law enforcement officials still struggle to navigate their role in a hyper-politicized climate. Reflective of today’s cultural unease is the record number of police retiring or resigning in major American cities like New York, where the perils of the job are exacerbated by decreased morale, low pay, and high crime. At the Ramaz School, a Jewish day school in Manhattan, an initiative by one student demonstrates that respect for police still exists and that students can lead the way in repairing the harmful narrative surrounding our nation’s law enforcement.

After starting a Forensics and Criminal Investigation Club at her school, sixteen-year-old Cora Sugar soon recognized that she would need professional expertise to help guide the group. A fan of the television show “CSI,” Sugar says that “television is obviously not real life. I wanted to learn how things really work from the people who do this job every day.” She connected with Anthony J. Raganella, Sr., President of the New York State and Eastern Canada chapter of the FBI National Academy Associates, and asked for his help. The FBINAA is a non-profit organization with 16,000 members across 50 states which provides law enforcement expertise, leadership training, and information to law enforcement executives worldwide.

Raganella was happy to hear there was a student-driven effort designed to explore the forensics and criminal investigation fields. He explains that part of the mission of his office is “to encourage and assist in the education of the general public regarding their cooperation with law enforcement officers in the detection and prevention of crime.” He recruited 25-year veteran NYPD detective Christopher Ort to lead the sessions, and Chief of Interagency Operations Theresa Tobin, to lend her guidance as well.

Club members worked on a mock cold case and quickly realized that the work of law enforcement is complex. Kayla Ginsberg, a student in the club, noted that “in today’s society, it is much simpler to track down people utilizing the modern technology we have,” but she also came to appreciate that investigative work also involves long hours of detail work, critical thinking, and tasks that might be supported by technology, but not replaced by it. Incidentally, some experts warn that increasing reliance on technology is to blame for the results of research released earlier this month in the journal “Intelligence,” which found that IQ scores in the US declined for the first time in decades, with the most significant drop occurring among young adults and “those who are less well educated.”

The club’s greatest impact was perhaps realized in the relationship-building between law enforcement and the teens. Students like Avi Flatto-Katz, another club member, were intrigued by the professionals and the process. The club’s final session was a grade-wide assembly featuring Cornelius Dupree, an exoneree who spent 30 years in prison before a DNA test performed by The Innocence Project proved he did not commit the crime for which he was convicted. As Detective Ort explained to the club members, forensic DNA testing has been a critical advancement in criminal investigation technology that has aided both the exoneration of the innocent and the conviction of the guilty.

Jewish students, in particular, have a vested interest in learning from and engaging with law enforcement officials, who remain committed to protecting our communities yet are hampered by criminal justice laws such as expanded pretrial release for various crimes and cashless bail.  Earlier this month, the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) 2022 US Audit of Antisemitic Incidents revealed a disturbing 36 percent rise in antisemitic attacks between 2021 and 2022, and noted that hate crimes against Jews has reached their highest level since the ADL began tracking them in 1970. Raganella believes deeply in what he calls the “crucial and necessary public-police relationship.” Working with this group of teens fit perfectly into his vision of that relationship.

Across the nation, law enforcement is investing resources to reorient relations with the public away from the damage done by ideological fixations. Helping citizens understand how law enforcement works and the men and women who commit to the work every day is part of that effort.

Irit Tratt is an independent writer residing in New York.

Source of original article: Irit Tratt / Opinion – (
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