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Blog

Law & Order: A Comparative Perspective on Policing in Society

With the tragic death of George Floyd and so many others, the question of police brutality naturally arose: Is America the only country dealing with this? The answer is no. Power abuse happens in every country all over the world, but media sensationalism and transparency does not. Even then, America does have many more police related deaths than European countries. Some thought that this was a direct result of the training that police received as well as the perception of the role of police in the different societies. European police are more conservative, and American police are more likely to be involved with problematic social situations in which they are not adequately trained to have power in. However, there are significant racial biases in both regions, usually towards minority ethnic groups, refugees, and BIPOC. This results in those groups of people more vulnerable to police brutality and incarceration.  Differences emerged not only concerning the number of hours required for a training to be complete, but also in regards to the type of training that states and countries require and offer. In Europe, police go through several years of basic training, while in the US, training can take as little as 21 weeks. With greater amounts of hours, police can learn about de-escalation techniques, conflict-resolving, and have more experience in difficult situations, but when there are only 21 weeks, training is focused on firearms. Most people did agree that police should have guns, at least in the US, where guns are so prevalent and they need to protect themselves and others. However, there should be baseline non-violent rules to prevent escalation.  So how exactly is justice served? The American system consists of a judge and jury of randomized citizens, which is designed to prevent biases from both the jury as a whole and from the judge. The European systems vary between countries, but they usually have a small panel of judges and no jury. In America, convicts seem to pay for their crimes even after jail time in regards to reduced job opportunities, loans, etc. They also lose their right vote in prison in all but two states, and in some states after prison, either temporarily or even permanently. In Europe, reintegration into society is of major importance.  When asked “Should jail be structured as a place where people are punished or where they can be redeemed?” and where the line should be drawn, groups came to similar conclusions: It is reasonable to draw a line somewhere between murder and severe body harm. Convicts with lighter charges should have a chance for redemption. This benefits not only the individual convicts but also society.  In both the US and Europe, we agreed that there needs to be reform, especially on combatting implicit discrimination–hopefully we can learn from each other on how to improve our societies and move forwards. .ugb-0000690 > .ugb-inner-block > .ugb-block-content > .ugb-columns__item{grid-template-columns:0.66fr 1.34fr !important} .ugb-b3f8de4.ugb-spacer{height:83px} On July 2nd, 2020, BridgeBerkeley (USA) and BridgeMaastricht (NL) hosted a joint discussion on the role of police in society, corrections system, and societal factors surrounding justice with the goal of hearing and learning from opinions and experiences from both the US and Europe.
24
Jul

New Beginnings (Part 1)

New Beginnings (Part 1)

Political polarization can indeed be stilled—not by doing battle, but by breaking pattern. I was a child of the sixties. When we boomers came of age, the dust had pretty much settled over the trauma of two world wars and a great depression. Nonetheless, change was in the wind. For us new kids on the block, many of the norms and beliefs that provided the previous generation’s feelings of safety and security didn’t make sense. At times we judged rigid expectations for gender roles, race, basic civil rights, and life paths in general as illogical, unrealistic, or unfair. The sixties rebellion is a thing of folklore. Challenging the seemingly nonsensical led the way. “Power to the people,” “hell, no, we won’t go,” “make love not war,” “don’t trust anyone over thirty” “turn on and tune out” and similar notions became rallying cries. We saw a rise in practices such as sit-ins, civil rights marches, draft dodging, burning bras, nonconformist styles of dress and music, and other means of social defiance. These are what often come to mind when people think about the era. Behind the scenes, however, the less visible among us were also working hard. Rather than depending on acting-out behavior to get us what we wanted, we scoured the horizons, seeking viable solutions for changing times. We eventually met in the middle with those who did not understand us, using existing governmental, social service, faith based, educational, and other systems that impact social decision-making. We applied them in new ways. Our hearts and souls poured blood, sweat and tears into our efforts, every bit as much as did the colleagues out on the streets who were crying for action. We continued to strive for a better society throughout our lives. It does take time. And how our world differs from fifty years ago. We grew—not just by way of angry opposition, though these more noticeable efforts did raise awareness. Our society established new norms because of willingness to break ingrained social patterns that had become obsolete. .ugb-27e24cc hr.ugb-divider__hr{margin-left:auto !important;margin-right:auto !important} Laurel Hughes, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist specializing in disaster mental health, is author of “The Cogjam Effect – and the Path to Healing Divisive Community and Fractured Science,” www.thecogjameffect.com.
14
Jul

Ready, Set, COVID: Adapting with the Times

Ready, Set, COVID: Adapting with the Times

.ugb-cb3b9ce .ugb-blockquote__quote{width:70px !important;height:70px !important}.ugb-cb3b9ce .ugb-blockquote__item{text-align:center !important}.ugb-cb3b9ce .ugb-inner-block{text-align:center}The fear created by COVID-19, was that we would lose our connection, the power behind Bridge, but it has been through this pandemic that we’ve found our strength. January 20, 2020: The first recorded case of COVID-19 was documented in the state of Washington. The first case didn’t invite much fear, and life continued to flow at a steady pace. People continued to make their way to work and school, and every activity in-between. The country kept moving until very suddenly, it stopped. For many, this meant working from home or sudden and unexpected unemployment, taking finals online, and total isolation inside our own homes. BridgeUSA chapters across that country canceled meetings and events. The BridgeUSA national summit, an event approaching with anticipation, was removed from the agenda. As an organization, BridgeUSA operates through the connection created by individuals through meaningful conversations. To be unexpectedly removed from our purpose, disconnected from members and new faces, was devastating to both established and up-and-coming chapters. The removal was difficult, but BridgeUSA is tenacious.  .ugb-4a27efe > .ugb-inner-block > .ugb-block-content > .ugb-columns__item{grid-template-columns:0.80fr 1.20fr !important} BridgeBerkeley and BridgeMaastricht talk over Zoom, each holding a sign of where they were located. In less than a week, the various teams that assist in moving Bridge forward came together to plan for the future. Discussions over Zoom, offered nationwide, were being planned for the coming weeks. Chapters from all over the country came together to assist one another in working through discussion plans, advertising, and more technical issues. With the shift to online meetings, more interaction took place between BridgeUSA and BridgeEurope. Our summit was held virtually, a video series was created, and we worked to build community in a time of isolation. The fear created by COVID-19, was that we would lose our connection, the power behind Bridge, but it has been through this pandemic that we’ve found our strength.