Studying police accountability and reform from different angles

Professor Mir Usman Ali, advisor in the Public Policy Public Management specialization, focuses his research on citizen oversight of police, the impact of body-worn cameras, and policies intended to curb domestic violence involving the use of firearms. In February 2023, Dr. Ali presented oral and written testimony to the Maryland Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee in support of Senate Bill 285. This bill allows county governments to grant their police accountability boards the authority to independently investigate allegations of police misconduct. Dr. Ali testified because his research directly speaks to the impact that investigative oversight agencies have on racial disparities in policing outcomes. He was asked by the MD ACLU and a local non-profit (Silver Spring Justice Coalition) to share his research findings in the testimony.
You can watch his testimony from minute 6:47:15 to 6:49:20 here. 

In a similar vein, Ph.D. candidate Shawana Lachir is studying police and policing practice through a critical lens and the impact on legal cynicism. In her own words:

“The highest level of distrust of the overarching legal system is in in Black neighborhoods (Hagan & Albonetti, 1982). The lack of trust is a result of encounters with the criminal justice system, laws that disproportionately harm Black people, a history of discrimination, and the widespread perception that African Americans are not treated properly by the police. These attitudes pose a threat to legitimacy in American policing. Legal cynicism is both a consequence and a framework to understand conditions in Black neighborhoods.

Adolescents are vulnerable to developing legal cynicism. Some youth might be at an increased risk of developing legal cynicism due to exposure to legal actors in their neighborhood and at their school. The full extent to how school-based police impact adolescent’s is unknown. I utilize the Fragile Family Child Wellbeing Study data to address my research questions: 1) Who demographically is most at risk for developing legal cynicism? 2) How does a school’s SRO/police presence influence students’ perceptions and attitudes of the legal system? 3) Which form of contact with the law and legal actors, indirect or direct, is the best predictor of legal cynicism? 4) Do SROs enhance legal cynicism for youth who had direct or indirect police contact in the neighborhood?”

In March 2023, she gave a presentation on her research as part of UMBC’s AOK Library and Gallery SPOTLIGHT! Guest Instructor Workshop series. Check out her presentation here.