Johns Hopkins Gazette: May 22, 1995

Kant for Cops

By Kevin Smokler /
Special to The Gazette

     Steve Vicchio poses a question to his class:  What are the
differences between the Ten Commandments and American criminal

     "Law is made by men?" offers Inspector Robert White of the
Washington, D.C., police department.

     Vicchio nods and writes the statement on the board.

     "Men enforce laws," adds Maj. Mark Paterni of the Howard
County, Md., police.

     On the board it goes. And so Vicchio continues with his
Friday afternoon class on Values and Ethics in Society, in which
readings of Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill are
the standard fare.

     This is not "cop school" in the police academy sense of the
word. The Police Executive Leadership Program, or PELP, is a
two-year master's degree program in applied behavioral sciences.
Believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, it is offered
by the Johns Hopkins University School of Continuing Studies.

     Enrolled are 24 supervisory officers, from sergeants to
chiefs of police, representing every major police department in
the Baltimore-Washington area, plus the U.S. Department of
Agriculture police. On alternate Fridays and Saturdays, they
throw on street clothes, sling backpacks over their shoulders and
attend all-day classes.

     PELP's genesis was a 1991 New York Times article indicating
that, in 20 years, the number of police officers with college
degrees had increased from 4 percent to 23 percent. Yet, there
existed little advanced training for law enforcement officials
beyond a standard criminal justice curriculum, said Stanley
Gabor, dean of the School of Continuing Studies.

     So Gabor set out to design a new program, together with
Sheldon Greenberg, then associate director of the Police
Executive Research Forum, one of the largest law enforcement
think tanks in the country.

     "Traditional cops and robbers that you see on television is
only 3 percent of the job," Gabor said. "We wanted a program that
taught law enforcement administration, strategic planning and
values. This is not Handcuffs 101."

     The program aims to help officers keep pace with their
changing societal role, Gabor said, and improve communication
between jurisdictions. 

     "Often police officers are the first on the scene in cases
involving domestic violence, the homeless, prostitution," he
said. "They need sensitivity and cultural skills to deal
effectively with these situations. They don't learn those skills
in academies."

     "These are people who want to be the change-makers in both
their regions and nationally," said Greenberg, himself a former
officer. "Before this program, it was unheard of to have
first-line supervisory officers and chiefs of police, from
different districts, talking to each other and exchanging ideas."

     As a result of the program, he said, the Washington, D.C.,
Police Department recently shared criminal investigation training
methods with the Annapolis police.

     In Vicchio's class, students are applying their readings in
Kant and Hobbes to issues of modern law enforcement. The class is
preparing and hopes to publish an anthology that will combine
traditional philosophical writings, moral dilemmas plucked from
literature (such as those in Billy Budd and The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn) and case studies in law enforcement.

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