Our 80th episode is a chat with Dr. Dick Bennett from American University. A senior statesman in the Criminal Justice and Criminology field, Dick has been at AU for 41 years! A leader with the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, researcher, writer, editor, and trainer, he has inspired countless scholars over the years.
An enlightening chat with Dick Bennett, I think you'll find enjoyable, a little history a little, present events, and a bit of the future of policing and CJ education. Dick is a proponent of Evidence-Based Policing and improving training for police at the recruit and in-service levels.
Dick earned his Master's Degree at Florida State University and a doctorate from Washington State University.
[00:00:02.710] - Intro
Welcome to The CopDoc Podcast. This podcast explores police leadership issues and innovative ideas. The CopDoc shares thoughts and ideas as he talks with leaders in policing communities, academia, and other government agencies. And now please join Dr. Steve Morreale and industry thought leaders as they share their insights and experience on The CopDoc Podcast.
[00:00:33.810] - Steve Morreale
Well, hello, everybody. This is Steve Morreale coming to you from Boston today. And today I have the honor and the privilege to talk to a colleague. His name is Dick Bennett from American University. We're talking to him outside of the campus in Northern Virginia. So I say, good afternoon, Dick.
[00:00:49.200] - Dick Bennett
Well, good afternoon, Steve. It's great to be on your podcast.
[00:00:52.240] - Dick Bennett
So glad to have you. Thank you so much. What I'd like you to do is talk a little bit about your trajectory, what got you involved in education, criminal justice education. You have been a leader among leaders for sure. So it is a privilege to chat with you. But I'm wondering, where did you start? I know you were a police officer, a deputy sheriff for a while. Talk about that and how far back that goes and then how you ended up in academia.
[00:01:14.400] - Dick Bennett
Well, actually, to tell you, it started in college. I went to Randolph-Macon College, which is a small liberal arts college in Ashland, Virginia. And I had a really wonderful professor that really got me interested in criminology and criminal justice. Upon graduation, I didn't know what I was going to do, so I decided to go and get a graduate degree. Went down to Florida State University because the place emulated me. Go to Florida State. And I went to Florida State and lo and behold, got my master's degree and got my first teaching job at East Tennessee State University. That's up in the eastern part of Tennessee. And while I was there teaching criminology, basically one of my students was a deputy sheriff and another one of my students was deputy police commissioner in Johnson City and then also in Washington County, Tennessee. And they said, look, they said we could need some help. Have you ever done records work? Have you ever done any management system stuff? And I said, well, not really, but I'd be happy to experiment on you. So lo and behold, I started the experiment. And becoming involved with the police down there, they were joined as a criminal investigator and really enjoyed doing training.
[00:02:16.700] - Dick Bennett
One of the things they really lacked was training, especially in training, interaction with people with mental challenges, things like that. Oh, by the way, one summer I was a rent a cop in Ocean City, New Jersey, and that kind of turned me onto it. But that was a long time ago.
[00:02:30.120] - Steve Morreale
That's okay. Still policing.
[00:02:31.660] - Dick Bennett
Still policing, yeah, leasing at a lower level.
[00:02:34.010] - Steve Morreale
But when you left in Eastern Tennessee State, did you go it seems to me you went to Washington State at one point.
[00:02:39.600] - Dick Bennett
I did. I started realizing that I really love teaching now. I love working with law enforcement agencies in terms of helping them advance, given the areas of expertise I had. So I started looking around and realizing that all the jobs when I first got the job at Eastern Tennessee State, my master's degree is fine, then you start looking at the advertisements and well, PhD started to be preferred, and in a couple of the better schools was PhD required. So I said, okay, I really enjoy teaching, and I know that if I'm going to have a future in teaching, I have to have a doctor. So I applied to four or five schools at that time. There were no criminology programs or criminal justice programs just before Albany started. And so I looked around and I found the sociology Department of Washington State that had people that had done work in criminology. So I said, why not? So when I went out to Washington State again, my interest in policing, I was talking to the sheriff out there, Ray Fetland, and he said, we could really use someone that's your skills. And one of the skills I brought was crime scene photography and criminal investigation.
[00:03:33.220] - Dick Bennett
So they made me a criminal investigator, a sworn officer. I got paid a dollar a year. I'll tell you what, I spent that dollar very cherishingly a dollar a year as a criminal investigator and did training for the organization. And that's kind of how I got into law enforcement. I've kind of stayed there.
[00:03:50.280] - Steve Morreale
So much has gone on over time. What you just said a moment ago is people who don't necessarily understand history would learn from the experience that you had when LEAA and LEEP came out and they were trying to raise the educational level after 68 riots and all of those things, right. What I recall was the people who stood up for it wasn't even criminal justice at that point in time. Law enforcement was a degree were sociologists stepping in to teach like yourself or around you or just before you, but also that they were in two-year schools in community colleges. And so the question I would ask is, when you look back and as active as you are as an ACJs in ASC and all the writing that you've done, Dick. And by the way, we're talking to Dick Bennett from American University. Dr. Dick Bennett, what do you see as the change? You talked about Albany, and Albany was the first, but it wasn't the last. What began to happen as this new fledgling area of study beyond Criminology, but criminal justice? What's your recollection of those changes and the pull and push that was going on back then?
[00:04:55.930] - Dick Bennett
Well, it's interesting because you just brought up the President's Commission and LEEP, which is law enforcement education program. To be honest, I went to the master's program at Florida State with LEEP money, and the idea was to from the President's Commission was that we need to educate our police officers or increase their education. And so they put their money where their mouth was and created this law enforcement education program. And I think what happened now speak specifically of American University, but it happened in many other schools. Here you have private institutions and small institutions that are looking for money. They can't really raise their tuition because they have to be competitive with other sister schools, so they have to think of other ways of earning more income. Some of the private schools, American University, back where I first came, was not a research one school. Now, for your listeners, that means the school that a lot of funded research takes place, both locally funded and federal governmentally funded. We weren't that, so we weren't going to get operating funds from federal or state funding, which meant we had to increase the number of students we had.
[00:05:55.050] - Dick Bennett
And a lot of schools did this. So what they did is they created programs to take advantage of this brand new 1968 69 program, LEEP or Law Enforcement Education program. American University did that, and I know of other schools that did exactly the same thing in order to increase the revenue. Now, you said community colleges. Well, back in the day they were called junior college.
[00:06:16.410] - Steve Morreale
Yes, they were. I'm back in your day, too, but most people aren't.
[00:06:20.730] - Dick Bennett
Go ahead. So I slip occasionally say, oh, junior college, no, it's community college. The same thing. Their state funding was not in most cases, was not as adequate as could be. So they said, look, if we can start a program for law enforcement, we can bring our local law enforcement officers in. Not only are they getting the salary from their job, but now they're getting this led benefit on top of their salary.
[00:06:44.230] - Steve Morreale
In essence a scholarship, right?
[00:06:45.710] - Dick Bennett
We can do a spectacular recruiting job. And that's what I think really happened if you start looking at the growth of programs. I mean, there are almost 300 programs now in Criminology, criminal justice at the baccalaureate and the AA level. And back when we started this, as you said, most people are from sociology who had an interest in Criminology that also had some interest in criminal justice. Now, of course, most people have a criminal justice degree from Albany, from us, from Delaware, a lot of folks coming out of ASU, Arizona State, Sam Houston, Michigan.
[00:07:15.940] - Steve Morreale
It's on and on. You're right. It has grown.
[00:07:18.560] - Dick Bennett
Yeah, it's grown dramatically, dramatically. It all was a funding by LEAA - Law Enforcement Assistance Administration that came out of the President's commission, 68 disturbances and the law enforcement education program.
[00:07:31.400] - Steve Morreale
You know, Dick, when you go back to that, I understand actually that's a success story that we're talking about, that most people may not recall. What troubles me as I've gone through my experience, I consider myself a pracademic. I did the job for 30 something years and for 1518 years I've been in higher education, but it still troubles me that there are so many states that have held to a lesser standard for hiring police officers that the only thing you need is a GED or a high school diploma. We will accept military and of course we'll accept it, but not require an associate or a bachelor's degree. What's your feeling about that?
[00:08:06.500] - Dick Bennett
I think if you look at CALEA standards and those organizations that commission for Law Enforcement standards, that the better police departments, the ones that are considered more respected, are considered more advanced professionals, are the ones that acquire at least an AA degree and really prefer getting a bachelor's degree. I know that some of the law enforcement agencies like Arlington County and also Fairfax County not only really push for having a bachelor's degree, but they also give a pay incentive.
[00:08:32.730] - Steve Morreale
Well, I want to go back to something you said a little while ago, and it strikes me that you may have been clairvoyant and certainly well ahead in some of the research that you've done and some of the training that you've done and some of the advocacy that you have done. It's got to have been a proud memory to have been the president of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. In reading about your background and having been with you in a number of events, the fact that you were the ACJS president and you created or were on a team to create Justice Quarterly. You've got a long history and yet when we talk about that, you've edited so many things. But going back to the clairvoyance, you were talking about mental health issues and calls related to mental health issues way back when, and this is the hottest topic now talk about that what we.
[00:09:16.340] - Dick Bennett
We’re talking about in 70s I did some teaching at Donaldson. That's the training school for Tennessee law enforcement officers. Tennessee, like most states, most departments are very small and they can't afford to have their own training academy. What they do is you have a state academy and officers go for their state academy training. And Donaldson is the one from the state of Tennessee. And I spent time Donaldson talking about in the 70s, talking about dealing with individuals who have mental problems and how you have to deal with them. And yes, you have a gun. Is the gun the best way to deal with a person with mental issues? Of course not. But I've been advocating for a long time that first of all, we train our officers to recognize individuals with mental issues because if you don't recognize it, you're not going to be able to deal with it. They'll recognize number one, and then try to de-escalate, try to bring the person under control, verbal control, as opposed to physical control. And of course, now the thing that I really advocate is copying, or you have a program, a memorandum of understanding with your social service agencies.
[00:10:14.930] - Dick Bennett
And then if you get a call that looks like, smells like a taste, like an individual who has a mental issue, then you team, you co team and you go out there because police officers, their training is not the same as you'd say, a good social worker in terms of dealing with people with mental issues. That's what I advocate talk about they fund the police. I say no, fund the police, give them more training, let them create these MOUs, put money more into social services so that you have a 24 hour response.
[00:10:41.770] - Steve Morreale
I was just going to say . .
[00:10:43.690] - Dick Bennett
I mean, you've been a cop, you know this. I do.
[00:10:45.770] - Dick Bennett
But at 05:00 there is no social service agency open. No, what you can do is you can take them to a local hospital that has a mental award. But that's not working with the problem. We need to fund an agency, not only the police but also social service agencies so they have a person on call. Any good medical practice, any good medical practice. We'll have a doctor on call and I think that's what we need to do. But it takes number one funding and it takes more of an appreciation for the problems we have out there.
[00:11:13.490] - Steve Morreale
It's interesting because I'm doing a lot of work with co-response and William James College is the psychiatric and psychology university here in Massachusetts. They're standing up co-response center, excellent. Which is really good. And I just came back from Ireland where they're going to be doing it. They're turning it out. I've been working with them. So Garda is going to actually have the Garda ride in two person cars and they're going to have a third person in the back seat, a psychiatric nurse. So it is starting to pick up for sure. And so I'm glad to say that you're banging in the gong and you've been banging the gong for an awful long time. What about I'm going to cut deep and ask you your experience, your reaction to what happened not too far from the campus on January 6, your reaction to that.
[00:11:57.500] - Dick Bennett
What can I tell you? Our democracy was almost subverted. You know, I think the response of our police officers, our capital police officers and our DC police were very good. It's just that they were outnumbered. DC has 4000 officers, but you have 300 and something at Capitol Police talking about 300,000 400,000 people intent on violating the capital. I think that the fact that the military police were not brought in to help cordon off areas what happened there was a civilian issue and civilian law enforcement should have taken care of it. But you just didn't have the manpower. We needed more manpower. Arrests and stuff like that should have been done by our local police and the Capitol police. But crowd control could have been done by our military and our reserves. So I think it's a tragedy. The issue that I have is with the way the public is now reacting and so divided that I don't think we've seen the last of this type of insurrectional behavior, and I hope we don't see it. I think we're going to.
[00:12:55.070] - Steve Morreale
Well, these must be some of the conversations that you have in classrooms. And I know that you just at American University hosted the American Society for Evidence-Based Policing, which I know that you are an active proponent of. Talk about that event and what you think about EBP.
[00:13:11.180] - Dick Bennett
Well, a lot of time and the work that I did with the police organizations that I was a member of was basically the sheriff would say, well, you know, my daddy did it, and his daddy did it. It was good enough for my granddaddy, it's good enough for me. Well, that's wonderful, but we're talking about the turn of the century. What has happened in the United States with diversity, with various ideologies coming to the forefront. You can't react the way your great grandfather did at the turn of the century. There are other things you have to do, other things you have to consider, and that's what I think education does. And I'm all for trying to increase education and get people to think about what works, not what your granddaddy thought was, but what works today. And this is where we get down to evidence based policing. Let's evaluate everything. As a matter of fact, I just finished an evaluation with Fairfax County Police Department, considering them deciding to go with body worn cameras.
[00:14:03.330] - Steve Morreale
You do a lot of work with that. So talk about that.
[00:14:05.860] - Dick Bennett
Yeah, I'll talk about it in a minute. And the idea was, what effect does it have? Now we know what it costs a lot of money. Does it have the effect we want? And the effect, of course, is to increase accountability, transparency, and hopefully increase legitimacy. Or does it do it, or are there other things that we can do that will increase the public's compliance with police? The police, as Egon Bittner once said, what differentiates the police from any other group in society is they have the right to use the fatal force or lethal force. But is the use of the lethal force the thing you want to do? Well, in some cases, you have to you have no choice. But in a lot of cases, there are other ways of dealing with these issues. What are the best ways of dealing with them? This is where evidence based research comes into, and I support the organization. What we're talking about now is police reform, of course. What do we need to do in order to reform the police? To become more accountable, to become more transparent, and thus be more legitimate? Because, as you know, you've done this a lot, Steve, and that is that the public don't cooperate.
[00:15:07.700] - Dick Bennett
Law enforcement doesn't work, at least in our society. It doesn't work because we need people to, number one, tell us what's going on. Number two, be witnesses for us and a whole variety of things which requires public support. So if we're going to be effective, we've got to have the support of the public. And that's where I think legitimacy, accountability and transparency comes in.
[00:15:28.710] - Steve Morreale
You're just bringing up some terms that are not new, but they are rising. And everything from fair and impartial policing to communicate mindedness to procedural justice to police legitimacy, all of those things become important at Au in your department. You've been the chair several times. You rotate in and out of that chair more than I have.
[00:15:49.270] - Dick Bennett
I've been there for 41 years.
[00:15:52.330] - Steve Morreale
You must be dying your hair. You must be dying your hair. Talk about the growth of Au and how big the department is now. How many students roughly. I know we're all going through sort of a change in demographics, but what keeps you busy over there?
[00:16:06.260] - Dick Bennett
Well, the biggest thing of course, keeps us busy is our graduate program. We offer a master's degree in policing the law, in law and society, and also now in terrorism. That's very popular. And probably have about 150 current students right now that are coming. We have another 55 coming in this coming fall.
[00:16:24.620] - Steve Morreale
[00:16:24.940] - Dick Bennett
And then we have an undergraduate class. So, AU, I love to say, is just like the University of Chicago. Now Chicago, as you know, it's a very prestigious school. And why I say it's just like it is because we have more graduate students than undergrad. We have about 5000 undergrad and about 7000 graduate students. Most of our graduate students are working and are taking courses here in order to better their position or find another position. That's what keeps us busy is working with our students. The thing that I love the most is it's kind of interesting, but I love teaching undergrads. I love teaching freshmen because you have the wow moment with them when you're talking about the criminal justice system and how it operates. And then PhD students and I love working with PhD students because I'm very interested in research and I helped guide them doing their dissertation research.
[00:17:11.990] - Steve Morreale
Well, one of the things that I think, and I find and I wish more schools would do this, that I think no matter what your major is, you really should understand what the Criminal Justice Department is about because all of us are consumers at one point in time of the Criminal Justice Department. Yes, I think that's really very important. But I also know that you were talking about body-worn cams. Do you like the idea based on research? Do you think it works? I know that there was this fear when we first started that oh my goodness, it's going to kill us. It's going to be very difficult for us. It's going to impede us. And ACLU wanted it. Well now more often than not, it is actually vindicating police officers more than it's implicating police officers. What's your take on that?
[00:17:53.010] - Dick Bennett
Oh, exactly. I know when we first went to Fairfax County, we did a survey before they knew they were getting cameras. And we asked about cameras and stuff, and most of them said, oh my God, it's going to be used to sanction us. They weren't worried and in focus groups, they weren't worried about a fatal shooting. They weren't worried about that. They weren't worried about police excessive use of force. They were worried about minor rule violations because, remember, Fairfax is a fairly professional source. Now, to get back to your point, is this something we need? I feel that where you have a department where there is a tremendous amount of distrust between the community and the police, and that distrust usually comes from police excessive use of force, inappropriate behavior, and marginalized communities, I think that these departments could probably benefit from going to body worn cameras. We know that they reduce complaints, we know that they reduce excessive use of force, et cetera, et cetera, from various research. But for departments that have conflict with their communities, yes, I think the investment is probably worthwhile. I think when you're talking about communities in specific Fairfax County, it was very interesting.
[00:18:54.990] - Dick Bennett
As part of the project, all police officers, whether wearing a camera or not, have the force war camera half whether they wear a camera or not. We gave them business size cards that were in Spanish and English, because Spanish is the second largest language spoken in Fairfax County. And each time an officer would interact with a person, they give him one of these cards, and what the card basically says is, you might be contacted by American University to doing an evaluation. He's talking beyond 600. We got 609 people, and we're working on a paper is just about ready to be published. One of the things we asked them is how satisfied were you with the resolution of your interaction? That's the question that became the dependent variable. And what we want to see is if the person realized that there was a body one camera going on, were they more satisfied? First of all, we found that of the 600, only 18% recognized that the camera was on very low percentage. But we found that made absolutely no difference in whether the person perceived that their situation or the counter was successfully resolved, was not affected by whether the person said, yes, I saw there was a body on camera or no.
[00:19:57.270] - Dick Bennett
We then asked them a series about procedural justice and basically the big questions. Procedural justice. I was respected, they listened to me. The officer told me what he was going to do before he did it, etc. And that drove the model that explained everything great. When you say to Fairfax County, you say, okay, it's going to cost you probably a million to get started with body one cameras. And given the number of calls for service you have, it's going to be $4 to 9 million a year to maintain
[00:20:23.120] - Steve Morreale
Yeah, storage and upkeep, all that stuff. Recovery and review. Well, it is worth it because you can spend that in a complaint or in a settlement. But I actually have this feeling that at some point in time, government, and you've been around long enough, the government, the US government has a way of beginning to lure you towards things they want you to accomplish. Think about this, think about seatbelts, right. The first thing was just we want you to start paying attention to seatbelts. There won't be any penalty, don't worry about it. And over time, it gets the pushing. And then the government says, and did you know this? Oh, by the way, if you want to continue to have our highway funds, you must institute a ticketing process and the same. So it's hands free. And I truly believe BWC is heading in that direction.
[00:21:14.170] - Dick Bennett
Oh, yeah, you said highway funds. What most people don't realize is that that's one of the biggest transfers of finances from the federal government, the state government, some people say, oh, it's farm subsidies. Some people say, oh, it's welfare. No, it's highways.
[00:21:30.860] - Steve Morreale
[00:21:31.520] - Dick Bennett
And then they have used the federal government has used highways again and again to increase the probability that states comply with directives.
[00:21:39.090] - Steve Morreale
Isn't that interesting? Yes.
[00:21:41.150] - Dick Bennett
Well, we have a time when everyone will wear body. One camera, probably. I just don't think it's as necessary in some organizations and others.
[00:21:48.640] - Steve Morreale
I'd agree with that.
[00:21:49.470] - Dick Bennett
I could see funds being better spent. One of the real problems we have, Steve, if you're talking about police reform, is look at the training in service and preserve that our officers get. Do they get a lot of handgun training? Of course they do, because everybody knows that if you shoot someone, you had better of well trained them or the department all of a sudden is liable. So that's why we have a disproportionate amount of training in there. Am I saying that we should not train them for deadly force? Of course we should. But what we should do is spend a lot more time training them how to deal with the various types of populations that they are going to experience as police officers. I mean, you, you and I both know have you ever had someone come up to you as a police officer and say, I just want to thank you for doing the wonderful job you're doing. But I'll tell you what, almost everybody who came up to me when I was a police officer had a problem officer, can you believe I need help? And they're coming to you in a stressful point in their lives, and that's what you deal with.
[00:22:41.590] - Dick Bennett
Well, how much training do we have or do we give in most police departments? How do you effectively deal with people in a stressful situation? I'm not even talking about mental illness now. I'm just talking about a stressful situation. And that's where I think we need to put some money there.
[00:22:54.320] - Steve Morreale
I agree. I think in service training especially is underfunded, has been underfunded and it needs some attention. And this whole game that I see happening in state after state is pushing it to an awful lot of it online and that's a problem. It's the same with the things that we've experienced. You went through the COVID crisis and so did I. And we're using zoom right now. We know that Zoom can work, but I think if you're going to get a point across face-to-face training police officers who are going to push and resist and kind of push back on you, oh, yeah, you're going to be strong in that classroom, as you well know, and they have to believe in you. But I think we need to do a better job of in service training for sure.
[00:23:30.980] - Dick Bennett
Oh, I think we do. And one of the things that we need to do that I think is really important is not done. And this relates also to using zoom or virtual reality. When I teach, I like putting people into scenarios, having them act them out, and all of a sudden when they see scenario going downhill and the only response they can have is a violent one, it makes them think, wait a second, did I handle this properly? So I love scenarios.
[00:23:53.210] - Steve Morreale
Yeah, that problem-based learning is really big. You've been overseas, as I have, and Europe is really big on problem-based learning now.
[00:24:00.920] - Dick Bennett
Oh, yeah. No, I think when you do it, you get to see you might not admit it to yourself right away or certainly no one else, but deep side you say, oh boy, did I screw that one up. I've got to remember this lesson so that when I'm out there doing real police work as opposed to a training academy, that I don't make this mistake. No, I think situation based is just the way to go both in terms of preservice and then also in in service training.
[00:24:22.650] - Steve Morreale
I agree with you. I wanted to talk about one of the pieces of work that you seem to have done that is very interesting to me and I hope to many listeners what happens after the career of police and that transition that you talk about and leaving police work the difference? Because you see so many people gravitate, I'm just going to stay and I'm going to be in uniform. I'll just be a security officer. Like what? That's all. There's so many more things that people who interact with the public from the C suite to skid row, all of their skills are transferable. But I don't think a lot of police officers see that or realize that.
[00:24:56.840] - Dick Bennett
I don't think they do either. The study you're talking about is comparative. I looked at five different nations. And we are the only nation of the ones that I studied where 20 years now, 25 years used to be 2025 years, and you retire. And a lot of people do retire, police officers do retire in the United States because they all of a sudden realize that they are at the peak of their retirement funding. In other words, staying another five years is not going to increase the retirement funding.
[00:25:20.770] - Steve Morreale
[00:25:21.080] - Dick Bennett
So let's get out on the 40 something. Let's get out, let's get another job, get the retirement funding, and then also bring in salary. And this is really a different situation in the Netherlands, in Thailand, in Jamaica and the other countries, India, it's a lifetime profession. When you retire from it, that's all you do. You're actually retired. So problem in the United States is what do they do afterwards? And as you say, if you're a secret service agent, well, hey, you go with a big company as their security person. If you're a patrolman, if you retire as a patrolman and local police department, remember, now you have a GED or high school education, what are you going to do? You're going to be a security guard. You make your money, you collect your pay, and you go home at night. I'm not sure that what is done in the Netherlands is a proper way of doing it as opposed to the way we do it here. But what you find in the Netherlands is that as the person gets in their 50s, they all of a sudden now they're doing desk work and they're learning different skills.
[00:26:11.550] - Dick Bennett
And at 67 is forced retirement. Now that's now it used to be a lot earlier. And then the Dutch, like us, said, well, you can't retire 55 or 65 anymore because it's costing us too much money. Because by the way, if you retire at 65, you're going to live to 95. That means 30 years of retirement.
[00:26:26.900] - Steve Morreale
Can't afford it, right. And look at what happens here when it was 20 and 25. The cost is amazing. But I don't know that many police departments do a good job of preparing officers retirees for a second career. Maybe it's not their responsibility. The military seems to do a better job of that.
[00:26:45.020] - Dick Bennett
Yes, well, another thing is, in the military you also develop skills where the police, you're a generalist, unless you happen to have it credentials and you go into it and get more education and training. But by and large, it's not like you're going to be a helicopter pilot. You're going to be it. You're going to be a diesel mechanic. You know what you're going to find in the military, which are skills that are directly transferable into civilian life, whereas the generalized skills are transferable, but not necessarily into a specific field. Like you say, some of the best cops I've ever known don't use their gun, they use their mouth.
[00:27:15.380] - Steve Morreale
[00:27:16.520] - Dick Bennett
Judo, that's right. Some of the best cops I've ever known do that. They don't get the fights. They don't get because they know how to talk to people.
[00:27:23.360] - Steve Morreale
I witnessed that over and over again. In the UK. And especially in Ireland. You're going into a bar room, and sometimes the Guardian is the only person there, and the next thing you know, they're walking out, John, and say, john, what would your mother say? Let's go outside. And there's none of that stuff because there's that compliance. They're not in battle.
[00:27:42.230] - Dick Bennett
Exactly. And also, I don't think that approach challenges the male ego as much as saying, here I am. You want to fight me? Let's fight. You know, hell, of course you're going to get into a fight, right? As opposed to doing a little herbal judo and seeing if you can't defuse the issue.
[00:28:00.340] - Steve Morreale
So we're talking to Dick Bennett, and he is a professor, doctor at Dick Bennett at American University. And as he said, he's been there for 41 years. Let's talk about teaching and the evolution of your teaching. One of the things that I realized and recognize, especially again, I keep doing some comparison with other countries that in so many other places, in terms and especially the UK, Ireland and Northern Ireland, that the style of teaching is more passive than it is active in a lot of ways where the professor is professing. And I'm not sure that works here in the United States.
[00:28:32.870] - Dick Bennett
Not an American university.
[00:28:34.380] - Steve Morreale
Exactly. And that's what I'm finding. And students want to be challenged, but they want to be engaged. So even talk about the things that you going back from eastern Tennessee to the way you teach now or the people who work with you teach now. I presume it's a tremendous change in.
[00:28:49.660] - Dick Bennett
A program, dramatic change, going from more to lecturing to in class projects, especially group projects, bringing in guest lecturers. One of the things that AU has just started is called Disagree With the professor. And the idea is that I give a small ten-minute talk, controversial talk, and the students then talk about how they disagree and how they think that my data is wrong or whatever, but my feeling is I want to be challenged.
[00:29:11.090] - Steve Morreale
So you're playing devil's advocate.
[00:29:12.550] - Dick Bennett
I always play devil's advocate.
[00:29:13.430] - Steve Morreale
Yes, I do, too. Sometimes they think you really believe that.
[00:29:17.930] - Dick Bennett
I'll say something outlandish. And then I'll just sit back and I'll look and I say, excuse me, did you just hear what I said? Isn't anybody going to challenge me on that? Now, one of the problems I have, and you might have it also, too, Steve, is that over the last ten years, I have fewer and fewer really conservative young students in my class. They're becoming more and more liberal. The wonderful day when I had really conservative students is we would have really good discussions going on, and people would talk about ideology, and I'd have to stop and say, okay, let's talk about evidence here. Now, what is the evidence that you have to support that particular point and then turn to the liberal and say, well, excuse me, what evidence are you using?
[00:29:55.450] - Steve Morreale
Put your money where your mouth is.
[00:29:56.880] - Dick Bennett
Exactly. Let's talk about research. Let's talk about knowledge. Let's talk about science. Is ideology a good thing? Of course it is, but using ideology to base all your decisions on could create serious problems for you and your community. Let's look at the data and see what the data say, the basics, and then make our decisions based upon the date. Again, evidence based practice and evidence based research.
[00:30:19.230] - Steve Morreale
Yeah, I like that. Dick, what is on your bucket list? Before we started recording, you told me that you had been moving across the United States. Is that part of your bucket list to make a whole bunch more states on your list?
[00:30:31.760] - Dick Bennett
Yeah, my bucket list is to stay involved. What I'm planning on doing is I have two counties down here, sheriff's Department, and I'm going to them and saying, look, I have all sorts of background, especially in grant writing, in terms of trying to bring funding and other programs to your departments. Yeah, I just can't retire. Tending a garden is not what I want to do. I love travel. Again, I've been in about 80 foreign countries, both working with State Department and then just traveling. But most of the third world nations I've been in have been sponsored by the State Department in terms of travel there, and working with the State Department did that for 15 years. So I love to travel. Of course, with COVID, travel is reduced. So as I told you earlier, we weren't on air that we purchased a camper van and have been going around the United States staying in state parks. But it comes down to retirement, I'm not going to go off and be a security guard. I'm going to be very much involved in criminal justice research. I'm going to be Emirati on the Au faculty. So I'll be directing PhD dissertations, just keeping my hand in as long as I'm mentally and physically capable of doing it.
[00:31:38.100] - Steve Morreale
And there's no question that you're right there with it now. So if you had a choice, that's my judgment. But I think you're very lucid, my friend, and it's been an honor to talk with you, but I do want to ask you a couple of closing questions. If you have a chance, if you had a chance to sit down with somebody who has now passed that you never had a chance to, would it be and what would you want to know? How would you want to pick their brain?
[00:32:02.460] - Dick Bennett
When you think about work done, like Egon Bittner, Jim Fife, you talk to them and you say, okay, what got you into this? How did you form hypotheses? What was your source of inspiration? Again, trying to find the backstory, because we know their front stories. We read the research, we've talked to them while they're still alive. We know the research they did and what they published. What's the backstory?
[00:32:25.210] - Steve Morreale
As a researcher and now mentoring future and current researchers? It seems to me that one thing that researchers have to have is curiosity and to try to work through a meaningful question.
[00:32:37.830] - Dick Bennett
[00:32:38.520] - Steve Morreale
So talk a little bit about that.
[00:32:40.620] - Dick Bennett
Well, I'll tell you what. My PhD students invariably what I have to do are two things. First of all, select the topic and then focus in on what aspect of that topic they're interested in. And then number two, make a pictorial model as to what you think are correlated might be causal is their temporal ordering and have them actually visually create a diagram of little boxes and arrows. And then the hardest thing is to make them really focus on a specific thing because everybody wants to be I want to talk about reforming the police.
[00:33:11.990] - Steve Morreale
Don't save the world. Exactly. Don't save the world. What portion do you want to address? Right.
[00:33:17.610] - Dick Bennett
Yeah, now, reform what? Well, I'm really interested in officers dealing in a stressful situation. Okay, good. Now, are you interested in how the citizen responds or are you interested in how the officer responds to stress? Well, I didn't ever thought about that. Let's say how the officer responds to stress. Okay. Let's be more specific. What type of stress are you talking about?
[00:33:39.220] - Steve Morreale
Well, you're leading them down the road with questions.
[00:33:41.710] - Dick Bennett
[00:33:42.710] - Steve Morreale
I like to do that for sure.
[00:33:44.610] - Dick Bennett
Trying to narrow the focus because again, they want to solve every problem in the world. Well, number one, that's not possible. Number two, you need to get a PhD.
[00:33:53.460] - Steve Morreale
You need to finish. And I know you've said a thousand, how many times you've heard the best dissertation is a done dissertation, a finished dissertation. I know.
[00:34:02.360] - Dick Bennett
A done dissertation.
[00:34:02.360] - Steve Morreale
Well, you have the last word as you have young people who are moving through doing research. They are going into the business not just policing, but it could be policing and victim services and helping services and corrections and courts. What is your advice to them? Why is criminal justice and Criminology a fascinating and interesting line of study?
[00:34:24.420] - Dick Bennett
Well, first of all, it's the enforcement arm of government, military outside adversaries. But the police and criminal justice are in house adversaries. How do you deal with them? I want you to be very critical in terms of what you accept to be truth. For example, we know that 99% of the people who you send to prison are coming back into society. Are they coming back better than they went in or worse? These are the types of questions that I think our students must be aware of and must be critical of. Do you need to send a nonviolent offender to ten years of incarceration? I think you'll agree with me. When I was a police officer, I maybe met one or two people who really needed to be confined for the rest of their lives because they were just evil. The vast majority of people that I locked up were folks that were just like me, except they made a couple of bad decisions.
[00:35:11.370] - Steve Morreale
They had a bad day.
[00:35:12.210] - Dick Bennett
Yeah, they had a bad day, and.
[00:35:13.920] - Dick Bennett
They made a bad decision. I want my students to be critical. I want my students to think about practice and about what works.
[00:35:21.730] - Steve Morreale
And how you can improve upon it, I presume.
[00:35:23.890] - Dick Bennett
Follow the data and how do you improve upon it?
[00:35:26.280] - Steve Morreale
Yeah, that's great.
[00:35:27.140] - Dick Bennett
I tell my students, I say, look, you're at American University. You come from families. That treasure learning, that treasure reading, the treasure books, that treasure truth. Because you're at American University, because you believe these values, you're going to be one of the policymakers in 15 years. You're going to have power. You can make things happen. What I want you to do is to think about what you're doing. Are you doing things that are going to better society? How do you go about doing it?
[00:35:51.460] - Steve Morreale
[00:35:51.930] - Dick Bennett
So that's my clarion call. Get out there. Let's make this a better place for you and I and everybody else, by the way, not just two white old guys.
[00:36:00.080] - Steve Morreale
Well, I think to myself that I truly believe that one of the things that I hope that I feed my students is a thirst for lifelong learning. That this is not the end, it's just the beginning.
[00:36:12.110] - Dick Bennett
Yes, definitely. My issue is if I don't learn something each day, I feel it's a wasted day. And I'll tell you, I learn it from students. I tell the students, I say, I want to learn something from you. Tell me, tell me what's going on in your life. Tell me what you think. Tell me the experiences you've had, especially with law enforcement and criminal justice system. Let's talk about this.
[00:36:30.900] - Steve Morreale
There's richness in the classroom, especially in a diverse classroom, and we have lots of it, and so many people ignore it and stay away from it. They don't want to touch it. It's like the third rail. I want to expose it. I want to talk about that. Tell me where you're from and you look different than me, but tell me where you're from and what's your background and what do you believe in? One young man was from the Far East and said, I come from Myanmar, and I was actually put into a camp, and the students were just blown away. But, you know, if you don't ask the questions, you don't get the answers.
[00:37:02.640] - Dick Bennett
Yeah, that's it. That's it.
[00:37:05.030] - Dick Bennett
Steve, this has really been a pleasure.
[00:37:06.240] - Steve Morreale
Same here. Same here. I want to thank you so much for your time and for your energy. We've been talking to Dick Bennett. Dr. Dick Bennett, the soon to be Emeritus from American University, but still very, very active. You've been listening to The CopDoc Podcast, and another episode is in the books with Dick Bennett from American University. Thank you and stay tuned for more episodes coming up.
[00:37:27.650] - Outro
Thanks for listening to The CopDoc Podcast with Dr. Steve Morreale. Steve is a retired law enforcement and practitioner and manager turned academic and scholar from Worcester State University. Please tune into The CopDoc Podcast for regular episodes of interviews with thought leaders in Policing.