WVU Professor and students study community policing

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The research taking place within WVU’s Department of Anthropology and Sociology couldn’t be any timelier.

The topics of crime and social control play out in discussion in the classrooms in Morgantown while protestors, police, business owners and residents are living lessons of freedom of expression and public safety in Baltimore, Md.

A policing class recently shared findings from the research they’re doing under the direction Associate Professor James Nolan, a former Crime Analysis, Research and Development Unit chief with the FBI.

Students’ mission was to determine, after interviewing and spending time with officers in North Central West Virginia, what it means to “do right” when policing today.

According to Nolan, his students worked closely with police from the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office, Westover Police Department, University Police Department and Granville Police Department.

“They appeared to be very in touch with what the issues are in policing today,” he revealed. “They seem to be moving in the direction of the community relationship building model.”

Nolan said the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences students generated questions for each department and were welcomed by department leaders with forthcoming answers.

“They have to make friends with the people they serve. And, that was obvious,” Nolan explained. “The students rode along and they met the people that live in the remote areas. They all seemed to be supportive of the police. Police knew the people by name.”

As a guest on MetroNews Talkline Wednesday with Shauna Johnson, Nolan said widespread alienation between residents and law enforcement across the nation is not expected to reach similar levels in rural West Virginia.

According to Nolan, students learned Granville Police Chief Craig Corkrean is compiling data on what’s working in his jurisdiction.

“He’s talking about these things. He’s writing professional papers and trying to demonstrate what’s being done in these rural communities can also be done in more urban communities,” Nolan said.

In his former position, Nolan provided management oversight for the National Hate Crime Data Collection Program.

He said conditions generating violent behaviors need to be addressed to also ward off scenarios like those in Ferguson, New York City and Baltimore.