Dickinson Law panel discusses impact of Ferguson

April 02, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Eight months after unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by an officer of the Ferguson, Missouri police department, many communities are still reeling from the aftermath and taking lessons from the incident, which has sparked a national dialogue on community policing. 

Students of Penn State’s Dickinson Law sponsored a half-day conference, including a panel discussion, “Aftermath of Ferguson: Where Do We Go from Here?” at the Law School on March 28 as a way to explore some of the deeper themes brought to the surface by Brown’s death.

Organized by a host of first year law students, the conference provided a constructive opportunity to examine and discuss the issues surrounding recent deaths during interactions with police officers. Students welcomed professors and classmates from the Law School, community leaders and interested citizens from the Carlisle community, with around 50 people in attendance. The discussion included Carlisle Mayor Timothy Scott; Andy Hoover, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union; Sgt. David Miller of the Carlisle Police Department; and Rick Brown, a retired deputy commissioner with the Pennsylvania State Police.

Split into two sessions and culminating in a panel discussion, the morning sessions presented the events surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York; and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio.

The discussion between panel members, students, and residents ranged from community policing to discussions on body cameras, even touching on the recent criminal homicide charges of Hummelstown, police officer Lisa Mearkle. Mearkle, a 14-year veteran, was charged and arraigned in the Feb. 2 shooting death of David A. Kassick, a 59-year-old South Hanover Township man whom she pursued after an attempted traffic stop.

“We wanted to engage the community in a positive dialogue that will honestly examine fundamental problems within society, but that will also rise above partisan rhetoric or ideological entrenchment,” said Drew McLaughlin, coordinator of the event.

Student organizers include: Khalid Abdullah; Afrasan Adams; Raymond Baker; Karanjah Burris; Ryan Hart; Peter Mershon; Drew McLaughlin; Aaron Minster; Rowan Moriarty; Kadeem Morris; Maureen Rostad; and Jennifer Sticha. Professors Dermot Groome and Nancy Welsh were in attendance.

“We are hopeful that some of the discussions among community members may also lead to separate initiatives in other settings,” said Professor Dermot Groome.

Drew McLaughlin agreed, saying he hoped that the event would help the community to work together and find solutions, legislative or otherwise. 

Last Updated July 22, 2015