When my Bush Fellowship was announced in June 2020 I was working 14-16 hour days as a police officer responding to civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd. It seemed like an inauspicious beginning for a Bush Fellowship predicated on improving relationships between the police and the community.
There are many things I wish would have known as I began my Fellowship. One is a better sense of where I was going professionally and the direction my career would take. While I do not regret pursuing a Master of Public Affairs degree, part of me wonders in hindsight if some other field may have been a better choice. I also wonder if I could have aimed bigger and more transformationally, at least in terms of my personal goals, as I identified my Fellowship goals. Bush certainly pushes you to do so, but I wasn’t mentally prepared to deviate so much from my course at that time.
One thing that surprised me is how little contact I had with other Fellows. I knew it wasn’t a cohort model, but starting this during Covid meant there were not the several-day retreats that normally comprise Fellowship milestones. The online events did not replicate the sense of camaraderie and relationship-building that an in-person gathering can generate.
What stands out is that I was able to bring the stated goals of my fellowship - improving trust between the community and their police - into my degree. My capstone project is creating a story-based, community-led police training program that uses actual stories from local residents about their encounters with officers and how the officers behavior impacted their trust in police, both positively and negatively. The training will discourage officer behaviors that decrease trust and encourage those that increase trust. I have secured community partners to do the research and interviews and develop and deliver the curriculum. I believe the project has legs beyond an academic exercise and I will continue to pursue it after I complete my degree. I am very excited about the possibility of this idea to create meaningful change in policing.
Working full time while earning a master’s degree has been quite a ride. Sometimes it has gone by in a blur. But now that the end is in sight and I am able to consider what comes next, I am excited about the possibilities ahead of me.
One thing I’d like to see in the future are regular events for Fellows to connect, network, and get to know each other.