Students place second in national competition with senior Capstone project

This article is written by TCU This Week.

Violence involving police officers is a frequent topic in the media as of late, highlighting the strain among police officers and the communities they serve. Some TCU students and their peers throughout the country are working to be part of the solution to this national challenge.

As their senior capstone project, TCU strategic communication students created a campaign for the U.S. Department of Justice to encourage productive conversations and build trust between local teens and law enforcement. TCU students and members of the other finalist team from Missouri State University convened last month in Baltimore, Maryland, for the Justice Department’s National Conference on Juvenile Violence Prevention and the selection of the winning campaign. Eighteen universities participated in the competition. TCU students took second place for their campaign, Project Unity: Building Trust Beyond the Uniform. Their project coincides with the city of Fort Worth’s pilot program, National Initiative for Building Community Trust, also a project of the Justice Department, and created a partnership with Eastern Hills High School, whose students participated.
A lack of trust in the criminal justice system is longstanding in some communities. Contact with the criminal justice system, as either victim or offender, is particularly prevalent in communities of color.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics Police-Public Contact Survey from 2008 indicates that more than 40 million U.S. residents age 16 or older had contact with the police in the preceding 12 months, and almost 7 million people age 12 and over reported being the victims of a crime. Each of these instances provides an opportunity to build personal and public confidence in the criminal justice system. Yet, dynamics such as race, gender, immigration status and sexual orientation continue to impact perceptions and trust in the justice system.

With this in mind, Margaret Ritsch, APR, and strategic communication campaigns instructor, arranged the class project through Edventure Partners, an organization that connects universities with federal agencies seeking to engage the millennial generation on pressing social issues.

“Little did we know when we began the project that it would hit so close to home so quickly,” said Ritsch. “This project allowed our students to apply their communication knowledge and skills to increase awareness, start a dialogue and spur relationships between teens and law enforcement in our community. Additionally, it gave them a first-hand look at the vital need for such efforts and how their actions can effect change.”