Shifting inner-city juveniles' perceptions of the police
Originally published in UWM Report
What would it take to start an exponential shift of juveniles' negative perceptions of the police?
Police harass us. They stop us for no reason. Juveniles living in vulnerable neighborhoods commonly hold such perceptions about the police officers who patrol their communities, say Associate Professor Kimberly Hassell and Assistant Professor Tina Freiburger, both in the Criminal Justice Department at UWM's Helen Bader School of Social Welfare (HBSSW).
"Relationships between police and inner-city juveniles are in a state of national crisis. Many police officers do not understand juveniles' perspectives and most juveniles do not understand why the police do the things that they do," Hassell says.
This year, the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) launched a far-reaching program, called Students Talking it Over with Police, or STOP, in collaboration with HBSSW and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee.
Hassell and Freiburger were charged with developing an evaluation to uncover and document STOP's impact and to assist in replication efforts.
The program aims at changing perceptions and was developed by the MPD's District 5 Community Prosecution Unit (CPU) officers. The program is headed by Officers William Singleton and Cullin Weiskopf, who had been challenged by Chief Edward Flynn to find a way to engage and educate youth identified as future leaders in inner-city areas. Youths in the program learned about the nature of urban police work, the nature of crime in their neighborhoods, the reasons police stop persons to question them and how to conduct themselves with police during a field or traffic encounter.
More than 600 youths between the ages of 8 and 18 participated in the pilot program, which was offered through several after-school programs at Boys & Girls clubs.
Youths were divided into three groups: One group received the STOP program information from District 5 CPU officers; one group received the same information from Hassell and Freiburger; and the third group received no information.
The results were extremely encouraging. Participants in the CPU and UWM groups increased their general knowledge of the police and specific knowledge regarding conduct during police encounters, but only the CPU group members positively changed their perceptions of the police.
These findings document two key points: It is important that juveniles interact directly with officers, and that police personally facilitate programs such as STOP.
In addition, participants reported that they spread the word about their positive interactions with the police to their families and friends, suggesting STOP's messages could be passed on exponentially.
Because of the carefully documented processes and research methodology, STOP is poised to become a national model that can be easily replicated by other agencies. In October, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which has 20,000 members in 100 countries, recognized the importance of this research by awarding MPD their Excellence in Law Enforcement Research Award at its annual convention.
For now, MPD intends a citywide implementation through Milwaukee Public Schools, continuing to rely on Hassell and Freiburger for empirical documentation of the program's influence and reach.
Last year, the HBSSW awarded the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee its Research Partner of the Year Award, in recognition of the strengths and potential of this particular collaboration.
"Doctors Hassell and Freiburger were a pleasure to work with," says Sam Williams, executive vice president of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee. "Their professional expertise added instant credibility to the STOP program."
Health Sciences symposium highlights research
Keynote address of April 17 event to focus on childhood stuttering
Carol Hubbard Seery, associate professor in the College of Health Science’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, presents “What Is the Nature of Childhood Stuttering?” as the keynote address at the College of Health Sciences’ 2009 Research Symposium on Friday, April 17, in the UWM Union Ballroom.
The symposium begins at 8:30 a.m. with a viewing of research posters and the keynote address at 11:15 a.m.
Seery’s talk will be about understanding how and why some young children who previously had fluent speech start to develop characteristics of stuttering. Is all stuttering alike? If not, what are the subtypes of speaking difficulty?
“How should we analyze the disruptions of speech to address these questions? Why does stuttering decrease after a while for most children, while some children continue to stutter and struggle to speak?” says Seery. She also will point out and describe some of the potential factors contributing to early stuttering.
The symposium highlights the current research of both graduate and undergraduate students, as well as the faculty of the college. Students, sponsored by a member of the faculty, present their data-based research to a panel of expert judges comprising faculty, administrators and health care professionals from the university and the Milwaukee community.
The judges rank the projects based on the potential contribution to scientific literature, clarity of purpose, research methodology, analyses, results, quality of thought and writing.
For more information or to R.S.V.P. by April 10, contact Cheri Dziekan Chapman at 414-229-3225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
UWM researchers move closer to
revealing structures of single molecules
Featured on cover of January issue of the journal Nature Physics.
Most drugs on the market today work by docking with receptors on human cells called membrane proteins, which regulate the flow of matter into and out of cells. But the actual structure of these membrane proteins is not well understood, so shaping the drug molecules into the right puzzle piece is a tedious, trial-and-error process. With a clearer picture of cell structure, drugs could be created more quickly and be more effective.
"Nobody knows the atomic structure of a living cell to any detail," explains theoretical physicist and UWM Distinguished Professor Abbas Ourmazd. "We take guesses, but nobody's actually taken a picture of a whole cell at atomic resolution."
It's not for lack of effort. In fact, work toward learning the structure of proteins and biological molecules has produced four Nobel Prizes.
And four new machines—called x-ray free electron lasers, each costing up to $1 billion—are being built or planned worldwide to help reveal molecular structures. The first, at the Stanford Linear Collider, is scheduled to begin operation by mid-2009.
Analyzing the data generated by these machines is where Ourmazd and his Physics Department colleagues come in.
Each type of molecule scatters x-rays into a distinctive arrangement—a unique "fingerprint"—which reveals to scientists its location and atomic constituents. Even with very powerful x-ray lasers coming on line, such scattering by a single molecule is very weak, a fact that makes previously proposed methods for determining molecular structure inadequate.
The UWM team found that they could recover enough information to reveal a high-resolution atomic structure by identifying the correlations among scatterings from many different angles, a method Ourmazd likens to reconstructing a vase at an archaeological dig from a pile of shards.
"We developed a new class of techniques which take the data from these big machines and determine the structure of a protein," Ourmazd says.
"But the exciting thing about it is, we're really just scratching the surface."
Their work, published in the January 2009 issue of the journal Nature Physics, has already had an impact on the field, Ourmazd says, adding that he and his UWM colleagues are frequently asked to present their research at workshops on the new lasers and consult with designers of the next generation of machines.
Besides Ourmazd, the UWM research group working in this area includes Professor Dilano Saldin and research scientists Russell Fung, Peter Schwander, and Valentin Shneerson.