Taboo Talks is an event held by Weber State’s Diversity and Inclusivity Programs that aims to create an open dialogue about topics that are considered controversial by the general public.
Sept. 24’s Taboo Talks was focused on law enforcement, with discussions led by a panel of five members that included criminal justice professors, sociologists and criminal justice workers. Topics included prison reform, violence on campuses and domestic violence.
The panel discussed the Lauren McCluskey case. McCluskey, a student at the University of Utah, was killed on campus by a man she had previously dated. McCluskey had called the police to report the man’s dangerous behavior but did not receive the aid she was seeking.
Brent Horn, a WSU criminal justice professor, said a factor within the case was that McCluskey called the wrong people.
“The interesting thing about the police is that they have very strict standards on what they can actually act on,” Horn said. “There’s only so much the police can do, barring having certain kinds of evidence and even that evidence has to be put into the context that demonstrates the elements of a specific crime.”
Horn said the proper channel would have been for McCluskey to contact a place like the WSU Women’s Center. According to Horn, the role of a center that advocates for victims is to put them in contact with the proper channels to obtain restraining orders.
The panel shifted focus to talk about victim advocacy and the role that social work plays in law enforcement, prisons and social systems.
Diana Lopez, who works for the Ogden Police, said that when a citizen calls in a dispute or complaint, all the police can do without proof is make a report.
“They are recording this is happening. One of the things that we always suggest is to report it so we have documentation,” Lopez said. “Once we have documentation that something is happening, then it gives us a little more ground and more paperwork. The more reports, the more restraining orders, the more contact with victims advocates. Then we start building a paper trail.”
Horn said the many issues facing society today are pushed onto law enforcement despite the issues being social problems.
“Our police force is not a trained crew of social workers; they are not mental health experts,” Horn said. “They’re not social workers designed to help people work through their family issues. They are individuals who are specifically trained to go investigate crime, determine if there is sufficient evidence of a crime and then force it to stop.”
Monica Williams, a WSU criminal justice professor, said specialized courts have been beneficial.
“If you have a drug offense and you’re a first time offender, they go to a special branch of the court system that focuses on rehabilitation,” Williams said. “There are criminal justice consequences if they don’t follow through, but those have shown a lot of success in terms of resources.”
The steps being taken to reduce the frequency of these crimes were also covered during the panel.
“We are doing a study right now on mental health courts and how that diverts people away from the prison system,” Williams said. “If they have ongoing mental illnesses that are causing them to keep re-offending, then let’s solve that.”