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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

From the Classroom to the Field: Peacebuilding in Real Life

Written by Kroc School

From the Classroom to the Field: Peacebuilding in Real Life

Wednesday, September 12, 2018TOPICS: Student Success

Building Trust Partnership
At the Building Trust Partnership launch in January, Jessica with Chula Vista Police Department Chief Roxana Kennedy
begin quoteI’m grateful that everything I’ve learned from my different Kroc School classes, I’ve been able to apply to my early career as a peacebuilder.

It would be accurate to say my entire time at the Kroc School has been a case study on police-community relations. Along the way, the school has equipped me with the tools I’ve needed to research the issue and prompted me to seek avenues to work in the field.

While the school does not currently have a class on police-community relations specifically, I focused on the nationwide tensions, human rights violations, and ways to advocate for change related to police-community violence all year in multiple class assignments. Additionally, this semester I secured an internship at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice (Kroc IPJ) Building Trust Partnership which focuses on strengthening the relationship between the police and community through working with religious leaders in San Diego County.

In the International Justice and Human Rights Law course offered last fall, I learned how to monitor an issue within a country for an assignment on police brutality, which has become common practice for me now. Through Google Alerts, I was able to flag articles covering police brutality racial bias in the criminal justice system. I received an email weekly, beginning at the beginning of the semester with these alerts, and sometimes they would direct me to a topic where I would conduct further research. By the end of the fall semester, I was able to report out about national trends, like the lack of consequences for officers in officer-involved shootings and related killings, the violation of rights during protests and riots following episodes of police-brutality, and the unlawful intelligence gathering on Black Lives Matter groups across the United States.  

Staying up to date with the state of police-community relations in San Diego County and throughout the country has allowed me to excel in my internship because understanding the context of the arena I am operating in helps me to determine what the best intervention might be, and how that course of action will play off the other efforts already underway. I have heard many times how the national narrative surrounding policing affects the daily interactions that officers have with individuals, and understanding the tone of the conversation is key when trying to operate in a field rife with tension.

Last semester, I also had the opportunity to connect with and learn from incredible individuals. For example, I met with a lawyer who has been working in justice for victims of police violence and also the creator of the San Diego Police Department Wellness Unit. They both emphasized the human aspect in policing, with the lawyer citing examples of police officers falling from grace and operating in a predatory fashion. As I learned from the creator of the Wellness Unit, it was created in response to multiple officers being convicted of officer sexual misconduct, and was hailed recently by the Police Executive Research Forum as having a “model wellness program”.

Overall, the Kroc School has taught me to refine the practice of conducting effective interviews, and now, every time I sit down with an individual, I’m able to delve even deeper into identifying the problems and potential solutions, so that I’m better prepared to make a meaningful, lasting impact. Now, I not only prepare for interviews with designing thoughtful questions, but I know how to pay attention to the nuances in the interview and push the interviewee to expand on them in a graceful manner, often times getting more information than I thought possible.

Also last semester, the course I took in Program Design, Monitoring and Evaluation dramatically increased my ability to contribute at my internship. Evaluating whether or not a nonprofit in Linda Vista was accomplishing the goal it set out to through its computer literacy program helped me to better evaluate the project we are conducting at the Kroc IPJ, and determine whether or not we are effectively building trust and if our assumptions are correct (that the community trusts the clergy, that the clergy could serve as an effective liaison between police and the community if trained, etc.). Additionally, I learned the best practices of survey-making in the class, which allowed me to create a survey for the Kroc IPJ internship to measure the abstract construct of ‘trust’ and determine the baseline of trust for clergy participating in the Partnership.

My time at the Building Trust Partnership has been the biggest learning experience I’ve had since attending the Kroc School. It’s one thing to learn how to identify the roots and drivers of a conflict, and it’s another to work in the field with religious leaders, community members and law enforcement officers, and identify what the real issues are facing the people of Southeast San Diego and Oceanside. I’m grateful that everything I’ve learned from my different Kroc School classes, I’ve been able to apply to my early career as a peacebuilder.

Learn more about the Master of Arts in Peace and Justice Internship Program here.

The previous post was written and submitted by Kroc School Master of Arts in Peace and Justice student, Jessica Dockstader.



Kevin Dobyns
(619) 260-7618

Kroc School

About the Author

Kroc School

Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies' mission is to equip and empower innovative changemakers to shape more peaceful and just societies.