Calvin Denson Lehman, Staff Writer
One cannot imagine how relieved I was to walk into Criminology and find that it would be taught by a Black man. I’m certain I don’t have to explain why Criminology would be a sensitive subject right about now, especially as a young Black person. I trusted this man instantly.
One cannot imagine, then, how rattled I was to find out that this same man was a cop. I try to remain impartial on many things, but it must be said: the most important blue life in my book is Sonic the Hedgehog. The inherent trust I had in this man for the first five minutes of class dissipated immediately. However, over the six weeks that I’ve attended class, my trust for James Reyerson has returned in full force.
Class has been fun as much as educational. We’ve had several guest speakers provide an inside glimpse into the world of law enforcement in a way that is both informative and non-threatening. Reyerson is self-aware in a way that I was not expecting. He understands the apprehension (and blatant hostility) around law enforcement. Although he may debate students’ concerns, he never invalidates or dismisses them. As an African American in the Twin Cities right now, this experience has been invaluable.
Reyerson has spent over 12 years as a police officer. Currently, he is a homicide detective, but he has worked in many different departments. When asked what initially drew him to law enforcement, he said that he wanted to protect those who need protecting. Community is very important to him, and teaching at Augsburg is an extension of his values. Criminology is the only class that Reyerson teaches; his full-time job is detective work.
I often wonder how difficult it must be to be a person of color in law enforcement. Reyerson was honest, admitting that being Black and a police officer was hard. He experiences a divide between these parts of his identity, but considers the difficulty part of his role in the system. He hopes that his existence causes people to think critically, both in and out of law enforcement.
Reyerson often talks about the gap between law enforcement and the community. Especially in a world where police brutality is at the forefront of public awareness, there is a divide. Teaching Criminology is an effort to bridge the gap. He makes himself available to explain legal concepts, answer questions and listen to frustrations. The first few minutes of class are always spent discussing current events, creating a space for discussion not only about class materials but about life. It is clear that Reyerson cares about his students as people as well as academics.
If this class is offered again, I highly recommend taking it. Criminology is academically interesting, but the real benefit of the course is being able to experience positive and mutually respectful interactions with a law enforcement officer in a time when such opportunities are near non-existent.