January 22, 2021 |
AAs public safety and community welfare are under scrutiny, Dr. Eric L. Piza, associate professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, understands policing and alternative approaches to public safety, as well as evidence-based solutions.
Before entering academia, Piza spent five years with the Newark Police Department in New Jersey as a specialist in geographic information systems, crime analysis and program evaluation.
“He is truly a unique person because he brings his academic perspective as well as practical police work,” said Dr. Anthony Carpi, associate provost and dean of research at John Jay. "It has informed some of the efforts at the college to think about how we should train police officers … to be effective and understanding in the various situations they may encounter on the field."
Rather than coming up with a theory and then collecting data to support that theory, Carpi says Piza takes an objective perspective and looks at what the data shows when examining communities with more violence or crime. Piza says an unbiased look at the data can yield an unexpected conclusion.
“At the Newark Police Department, I saw the benefits that research and evaluation can have on public safety, but I also saw how difficult it was… for police forces to make time to do the science,” says Piza. "That's really what sparked my research interest in looking at research questions that are not only of academic importance but also have practical value for the day-to-day challenges of improving public safety."
Crime reduction is only part of a complicated equation, says Piza. There must be sensitivity to community perspectives and walking the fine line between maximizing public safety and ensuring prejudice. Over the next two to three years, Piza will review and systematically review, code and analyze police camera footage.
“What we've done with (the Newark Police Department) is look at CCTV footage of the use of violent events to understand how police use of force is unfolding in the field,” Piza said. “We want to better understand why one situation led to violence and another did not.
“Police have also learned this year that body cameras can be a powerful tool to ensure that the police act without bias,” he continues. "We are in the very early stages of discussing an extension of this project that would look a little more closely at police scrutiny of decision-making."
Carpi says Piza emphasizes an active learning environment that integrates technology both inside and outside the classroom. Piza finds that today's students are more comfortable expressing themselves with the help of technology. In his classes, before the final thesis is due to finish, students have the option to record a five to ten minute video of themselves with an overview of the paper, allowing students to communicate their plans and identify areas where they might what need. guidance.
He also uses Twitter, and each of Piza's lessons has a specialized hashtag. Students sometimes need to identify real world events related to the measurements and post them on Twitter with the hashtag prior to class. During class, they give a short presentation describing how the news story relates to the lectures, encouraging students to think critically about the material.
In another project, Piza and Dr. Kevin T. Wolff collaborated with the City of Paterson, New Jersey, on analyzes and interventions around the opioid epidemic. So far they have worked on problem analysis to understand the neighborhoods most at risk and current gaps in the provision of services and substance abuse treatment.
"They are going to spend the next few years designing and implementing a series of strategies aimed at specifically mitigating the opioid problem in the city, and we are going to work with them to evaluate those efforts," he says.
Dr. Eric L. Piza
Title: Associate Professor, Department of Criminal Justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York
Education: Associate Degree, Psychology, BA, MA and Ph.D., Criminal Law, Rutgers University
Career counselors: Dr. Joel Caplan, Dr. Leslie Kennedy and Dr. Todd Clear, Rutgers University; Dr. Anthony Braga and Dr. Rod Brunson, formerly at Rutgers, now at Northeastern University; and the late Dr. George Kelling in Rutgers.
Wise words / advice for new faculty members: “Junior faculty members have so many competing requirements: research, education and service. It can be very easy to take on many responsibilities. You have to be careful and aware of your time. "
This article originally appeared in the January 21, 2021 edition of Diverse and is one of a series of profiles on this year's Emerging Scholars for 2021. Read them all here.