Thurs. 7-9:45 PM

Jay Wachtel

Course description and learning goals

     This course examines the evolution of police practices and the influence of social trends, crime, technology, interest groups and politics in shaping what police do, and how. Students study the characteristics of police work in various settings, examine legal and practical constraints such as discretion, ambiguity, risk and uncertainty, and analyze the influence of  factors including isolation, peer pressure, secrecy and community culture on officer behavior.

     If there's a single sentence that best describes the goal of this course, it's to help present and future criminal justice practitioners make smart, ethically sound decisions and resist pressures to do what's expedient instead of what's right.

Required readings

1. Critical Issues in Policing, 6th. Ed., Waveland Press, by Roger Dunham and Geoffrey Alpert

2. Selected essays in Police Issues

3. Weekly slide shows (see schedule)

Cell phones, pagers and laptops

     Please set cell phones and pagers to silent mode. Feel free to step outside if necessary and to come back when your business is done.

     Absolutely NO use of laptops or other electronic devices in class. Keep lids shut. No recording. Laptops and other devices are distracting to users, other students and the instructor. Recording can inhibit the free exchange of information. Please take notes the old-fashioned way and plan your online activities accordingly. Why the rule? For an illustrated reason, click here.

     Note: students with special needs are excepted. Please bring your form on the first day of class.


     There are three exams - two midterms and a final, all multiple-choice and non-cumulative. Half the questions on each exam will be from the book, and half from slides, classroom discussion, slides and assigned readings from Police Issues. Makeup exams may only be given for one midterm and only for a documented emergency. If you cannot take the midterm on the scheduled date, e-mail. Makeup exams must be taken during the next scheduled class session. (Students will leave their items in class and set up in the hallway.)

     Each exam is a required component of the course. Unexcused failure to take an exam, failure to take a makeup on schedule, or any instance of academic dishonesty will result in a course term grade of "F".

Papers and presentations

     Each students will be assigned a recent, controversial justice event. Students may be assigned a single event, such as a specific wrongful conviction or use of force, or may be asked to look into a related series of  events. They will write a paper and make a presentation about the event as part of a panel.

     Events are drawn from stories aired by major media outlets or published in recognized newspapers such as the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Click here for the complete list of news events.


     Students will complete an academically acceptable, five-page paper about their assigned news event. The paper should use twelve-point type, one-inch margins and be double spaced.

  • Page 1 is a cover sheet
  • Page 2 is a narrative summary of the news event. Break your summary into paragraphs, using complete sentences and good grammar. Do not inject opinion or recommendations at this point.
  • Pages 3-4 analyze the event, focusing on possible causes and preventive measures. For example, was a wrongful conviction due to carelessness or a rush to judgment? Was a use of excessive force due to brutality, panic, honest error or something else? What should have been done in the first place, and what steps can be taken to prevent a recurrence? Opinions and recommendations should be supported with reference to articles in recognized professional and academic sources, including the NIJ, NCJRS and PERF websites, Police Chief magazine and the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin.
  • Page 5 is a bibliography, listing the sources referenced in pages 3 and 4.
  • A printout of the assigned article must be attached to the paper.

     Students must use their own words. Absolutely NO quotations. Strict plagiarism rules apply (for a definition of plagiarism click here).

     Papers will be turned in immediately after the presentation. Papers must be completed to receive credit for the course.

Oral delivery and Power Point slides

     Each student will orally present a concise, factual summary of their event, based on page 2 of their paper. It will not include any personal opinions or recommendations. A maximum of five minutes is allotted.

     Students will use one to three PowerPoint slides as prompts and to help the audience follow along. Each slide will have three to five bullet points that concisely relate key aspects the event and are arranged in order. None must be more than two lines in length (and preferably only one.) Detailed information should be saved for oral delivery.

     Slides should be black lettering on a white background. NO pictures! NO graphics! NO sound! Only exception is if a graphic MUST be displayed to convey important information.  In that case, please place the graphic on its own slide.

     Presentations must be rehearsed and committed to memory insofar as possible. Slides and papers are NOT meant to be read from. That is painful for the audience and will cause students to lose presentation points.

     Students who wish to show a brief video in addition to the above must clear it with the instructor in advance.


     Once all the panelists have presented, the panel will respond to questions from the audience and instructor. This will be the time for panel members to inject opinions and recommendations from pages 3-4 of their papers.


     Thirty points can be earned: Up to five points for the oral delivery, five points for the slides and twenty points for the paper.

     Each panelist is graded individually. Key points include following instructions, adequacy of coverage, clarity of expression, quality of  references, grammar and spelling.

     Participating in a panel, making a presentation on the scheduled date, and turning in required materials are required components of the course. Failure to fulfill these requirements will result in failure of the course and a term grade of "F".


     100 points can be earned: 20 for each exam, 30 for the presentation and 10 for attendance, to be taken as indicated on the schedule. Normally the A = 90, B = 80, etc. scheme is followed, except that scores will if necessary be adjusted ("curved") at the end of the term to reflect class performance. Missed attendance points cannot be made up regardless of reason. There are no extra credit assignments.

     I do not use the +/- grading system.

Weekly schedule

Note: slide shows subject to update until one hour before class

01 - 1/23 -- Development of American policing -- updated -- Slide show

    Text chapters: 1 & 2

    NOTE: You will be assigned a news article. Please read it, print it out and bring it to the next session, which will meet at the library.

02 - 1/30 -- MEET AT LIBRARY. Five attendance points. We will gather at the information desk. Bring a printout of your assigned article. Please be prompt.

03 - 2/6 -- Police role and subculture -- Slide show

04 - 2/13 -- Cont'd -- Selection and training -- Slide show

05 - 2/20 -- Cont'd

06 - 2/27 -- FIRST HALF OF CLASS: EXAM 1 (Weeks 1-5)

07 - 3/6 -- Cont'd -- Policing paradigms -- Slide show

08 - 3/13 -- Cont'd

09 - 3/20 -- PANELS PREVIEW PRESENTATIONS. Each panel bring all its members' draft PowerPoints in the proper numerical sequence on a single flash drive. Each member also bring your own backup on a flash drive. Panels 1-4 meet with instructor between 7:00-8:15. Panels 5-9 meet with instructor between 8:30-9:45. Please be prompt. Five attendance points. NO CREDIT WITHOUT POWERPOINTS.

10 - 03/27 -- Special problems -- Slide show -- Panels 1 & 2 present

11 - 4/3 -- SPRING BREAK

12 - 4/10 -- Cont'd -- Panels 3 & 4 present

13 - 4/17 -- NO CLASS

14 - 4/24 -- FIRST HALF OF CLASS: EXAM 2 (Weeks 6-12)

15 - 5/1 -- Cont'd -- Panels 6 & 7 present

16 - 5/8 -- Use of force -- Slide show -- Panels 8 & 9 present

17 - 5/15 -- 7:30 pm -- FINAL EXAM (Weeks 14-16)