Criminal justice students host a conversation with Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia

The College of Public Service is justifiably proud to offer its students community connections to enhance their experiential learning opportunities.

Recently, the College invited Adrian Garcia, commissioner of Harris County Precinct 2, to speak with students on the Research Methods in Criminal Justice bachelor’s program (CJ3300) taught by Dr. Fei Yang a.

In the Research Methods class, “we discuss various social science methods for applied criminal justice research and evidence-based policy assessment,” said Yang, assistant professor of criminal justice and director of the college Houston Crime and Justice Laboratory. “Commissioner Garcia was a pioneer in promoting advanced technologies in policing, such as B. ShotSpotter, and data-driven, evidence-based public policy for better practice.”

Yang also noted that her students were encouraged to have an open dialogue with Commissioner Garcia. Students asked applied research and policy questions and were able to learn from a practitioner with real-world experience in evidence-based policing. “This unique learning experience helps to combine textbook knowledge with practice, translating what is learned in the classroom into what can be used in actual policy making and practice,” Yang noted.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to speak with the young leaders at UHD’s Houston Laboratory for Crime and Justice. It’s always encouraging to hear from the next generation what they think is most important in public safety,” said Commissioner Garcia. He continued, “Building relationships with the community is not solely the responsibility of specially designated law enforcement officers. It starts at the top when elected leaders set a good example for rank and file officers. This opportunity to better discussCAG-0239

The communication between the public and the police was an opportunity for me to learn what we can do better to serve and protect the people.”

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CJ3300 is designed to introduce students to the design and implementation of criminal justice research, including the principles of research methods and design for use in policy analysis, content analysis, and secondary data analysis. The course also pays close attention to the application of design and implementation to criminal justice issues in a real-world context.

The interview with Commissioner Garcia was a one-on-one interview conducted by Yang’s graduate student Drejoin Ellington as part of his Master of Science in Criminal Justice project. Ellington opened the conversation by asking, “How can citizens and police better communicate each other’s needs and concerns?”

“It is beneficial for students in the Research Methods class to observe how to conduct semi-structured one-on-one conversations as aspiring social scientists,” Yang said. “Through this interactive process, the students were able to practice participatory observation and intensive interviewing – two of the qualitative methods they learned this semester.”

Yang added that her students learned three things from her conversation with the commission: engagement, enhanced learning, empowerment. “Students took an active part in the conversation with Commissioner Garcia. Committed and motivated students acquire knowledge and retain information better and more efficiently. Textbook teaches concepts and theories while Commissioner Garcia brings the concepts and theories to life,” she said.

“Students also learned how to represent their communities, especially disadvantaged neighborhoods, through their own voice,” Yang added. “It’s encouraging and empowering for students to know that their voice counts and can make a big difference.”

Image: Courtesy of Harris County Precinct 2

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