Actor Morgan Freeman and legal studies professor Linda Keena have donated $1 million to the Center for Evidence-Based Policing and Reform at the University of Mississippi. The beneficiary of this large donation aims to "build relationships and share data with policing agencies as well as use the data to enhance the preparation of students in criminal justice."
Like many, Freeman was deeply shaken by the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks and several others. Startled by the events, Freeman is hoping to effect positive change within police departments across Mississippi and the 49 other states across the country.
“Look at the past year in our country – that sums it up,” Freeman said.
“It’s time we are equipping police officers with training and ensuring ‘law enforcement' is not defined only as a gun and a stick. Policing should be about that phrase ‘To Serve’ found on most law enforcement vehicles.”
Freeman's philanthropic partner, Linda Keena, is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies at the University of Mississippi. She's also taught at Missouri State University and worked as a probation and parole office for seven years. With this donation, Keena hopes to "give officers as many tools as possible to do their jobs more effectively."
“The goal should be to give officers as many tools as possible to do their jobs more effectively,” Keena added.
“Our faculty will address critical issues inherently interwoven in the current and historic landscape of policing such as race, class, bias and lack of compassion."
Of the $1 million donation, half of it will go to start-up costs and the other half will create an endowment for long-range sustainability. When it is built up, the center will be physically located in the university's school of applied sciences. Wes Jennings has already stepped in as its director. Previously, he worked as the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Criminal Justice and the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Experimental Criminology.
“It is important to understand that the goals of this center certainly cannot be realized overnight but will happen as a result of a collective, focused and evidence-based approach and commitment,” Jennings explained.
“Success only will occur if there is effective and genuine buy-in from police, community stakeholders and constituents, and one of my critical tasks will be to foster these relationships."