Media Should Inform the Public on Why, Not Just What, of Criminal Legalities

As we discussed potential procedures following the aftermath of acts causing tension between citizens of the Milwaukee area and police officers, a small group I was part of presented an interesting point. That point was that many times citizens are unaware of the on-goings of the criminal legal system. When situations arise in which officers or citizens are not found guilty subsequent to what seems to be a criminal act, onlookers are furious and the city burns—literally.

The media does little to help reduce the animosity, pointing fingers and creating distrust between residents and law enforcement by informing on the what, but failing to expand on the why. We as law school students are all legally educated, and most of us, at the least, have taken criminal law, even if we are not so knowledgeable as those who teach it. So, when an event takes place that seems unjust and nobody walks away in handcuffs, we understand why. The citizens of Milwaukee, however, don’t have that same knowledge and are understandably outraged.

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Calling 911 in the Wake of Police Violence

black_lives_matter_sign_-_minneapolis_protest_22632545857Amanda Seligman is a Visiting Fellow in Law and Public Policy at Marquette University Law School.

How does racially-tinged police violence toward civilians affect city residents’ willingness to summon aid in an emergency? A study in the October 2016 American Sociological Review asks what happened to the number of 911 calls after the public revelation that off-duty white Milwaukee police officers beat Frank Jude in 2004. In “Police Violence and Citizen Crime Reporting in the Black Community,” Matthew Desmond, Andrew V. Papachristos, and David S. Kirk find that in the year after the initial publicity around the beating, Milwaukee residents placed 22,000 fewer 911 calls than might have been expected, resulting in a total of 110,000 calls. Although white neighborhoods saw a spike in 911 calls and then a long but shallow dip, the loss of calls was especially pronounced in black neighborhoods. The authors found no such loss of calls reporting traffic accidents.

Desmond et al.’s 911 study received extensive mass media coverage. Juleyka Lantigua-Williams wrote about the study in The Atlantic, and the New York Times’sThe Upshot” column reported the findings. The study was the subject of two articles in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, one reporting on the findings and one offering responses from District Attorney John Chisholm and Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn. Two of the authors, Desmond and Papachristos, also published an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times commenting on the significance of their research. A small host of other reports suggest broad interest in the study’s implications in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement and widespread coverage of police shootings of African American civilians.

Sociologist Desmond is one of our most thoughtful observers of the cultural significance of the 911 emergency call system. In Evicted, his 2015 ethnographic study of housing and poverty in Milwaukee, Desmond observed how victims of domestic violence put themselves at risk for losing their homes if they call the police too often.

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Close Friend Praises Jim Foley for Putting Marquette Values to Work in War Zones

The legacy of Jim Foley? Tom Durkin intentionally put it in terms that connected to Marquette University’s core mission. “We’re either people for others or we’re not,” Durkin said. “That’s the legacy that he created – we do stuff for others.”

Durkin was a close personal friend of Foley, a Marquette alum who committed himself to reporting from some of the most troubled spots in the world. Foley wanted to get to know the people living in those places, to tell their stories, and to help others around the world understand the world we all live in. Durkin said.

Foley was captured in Libya in 2011 and held hostage for 44 days before being released. After returning to the United States – a trip that included a visit to Marquette, where he took part in a public discussion about journalism in war-torn places – Foley went back to work, this time in Syria. In late 2012, he was captured by ISIS. In August 2014, he was executed by ISIS, a gruesome event that drew worldwide condemnation.

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