Two statewide community college systems have announced plans to review their training programs for law enforcement officers following nationwide protests against police brutality.
The community college system offices in Virginia and California made the announcements Wednesday.
Students have been calling on colleges to cut their ties with local police agencies, and protesters are calling on cities across the U.S. to defund police entirely after a white police officer killed George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd had been arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill.
Floyd's death sparked hundreds of protests in American cities. Police have been recorded responding violently to peaceful protesters, adding to the concerns about law enforcement practices.
"It’s clear as we see everything that’s happening across the country, from people dying at the hands of police officers to the subsequent protests and demonstrations, there is a need for genuine communication," said Jeffrey Kraus, assistant vice chancellor for public relations at the Virginia system. "There is a need for many members of the community to be able to sit down and talk about what they expect from law enforcement officers, including the law enforcement officers themselves."
Virginia's decision was one of many it put forth in a letter from the system's chancellor, Glenn DuBois. The system also plans to form groups to create a six-year strategic plan to increase equity at the colleges and create measurable strategies for increasing diversity in its hiring practices.
The task force to review law enforcement training will be led by Quentin Johnson, president of Southside Virginia Community College. It will include both community members and law enforcement officials, Kraus said. Many of the details are still being ironed out, including the exact makeup of the panel and its timeline to draft recommendations.
Ultimately, the recommendations will go to each individual college, which will then have to choose whether to adopt the changes, Kraus said.
The system does not know what percentage of Virginia's law enforcement it trains, he said, but just last year it enrolled 2,200 people in those programs.
In California, Eloy Oakley, the community college system's chancellor, announced similar plans to review the entire system's police and first responder training programs.
The system's colleges train about 80 percent of the state's police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians.
A spokesperson for the system said many of the details for the review still need to be worked out, and colleges have not yet received communications on the plan.
“We need to take responsibility for our own curriculum,” Oakley said while making the announcement, according to Mikhail Zinshteyn, a CalMatters reporter.