Series of public lectures, community discussions to examine ethics of policing

September 11, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Public concern about police integrity, the regulation of physical force in law enforcement, and racial discrimination in policing and law are some of the topics to be explored during the upcoming Ethics of Policing conference taking place Sept. 20-22 at various locations on the Penn State University Park campus. The conference will feature several keynote events that are free and open to the public.

Michael Walzer, professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study, will present a lecture titled “Soldiers and Police: Why Are They Different,” at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 20, in 121 Sparks Building. His presentation is the opening keynote address of the Rock Ethics Institute’s Ethics of Policing conference. Walzer has written about political obligation, just and unjust war, nationalism and ethnicity, economic justice, and the welfare state. During the lecture, Walzer will examine the differences between rules for police and soldiers.

Vesla Weaver, Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor of Political Science and Sociology at Johns Hopkins University, will present the Friday keynote address, “Portals to Politics: Grassroots Narratives of Policing in the ‘Low End,’ Downtown Baltimore, South L.A., and the 53206,” at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 21, in Paterno Library’s Foster Auditorium. Weaver contributes to scholarly debates around the persistence of racial inequality, colorism in the United States, the causes and effects of the dramatic rise in prisons, and the consequences of rising economic polarization. During her lecture, Weaver will explain how new technology can be used to initiate conversations about policing and incarceration in communities where there are high concentrations of police activity.

A panel discussion titled, “Race, Policing, and the Law,” will take place at 3 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 21, in Paterno Library’s Foster Auditorium.  Panelists include Eleanor Brown, Penn State professor of law and senior research scientist in the Rock Ethics Institute; Paul Butler, Albert Brick Professor in Law at Georgetown Law; Tracey L. Meares, Walton Hale Hamilton Professor of Law and founding director of the Justice Collaboratory, Yale Law School; and Cynthia Young, associate professor and head of the Penn State Department of African American Studies.

At 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, a community discussion will take place in Paterno Library’s Foster Auditorium. "A Community Dialogue on Criminal Justice,” will feature panelists Thom Brewster, Executive Director of CentrePeace; John Gardner, Chief of Police of State College Police Department; Tammy Ferguson, Superintendent at State Correctional Institution Phoenix in Montgomery County, PA; and Harold McKenzie, Senior Pastor, Unity Church of Jesus Christ. Laurie Mulvey, executive director of Penn State's World in Conversation project, will moderate the discussion.

Frank Zimring, William G. Simon Professor of Law at Berkeley Law at the University of California, will present, “When Police Do Not Need to Kill,” at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22, at the Nittany Lion Inn as the closing keynote address of the Ethics of Policing conference. During his talk, Zimring will describe the police chief's ethical obligation to value the lives of the citizens who reside in the communities where officers work. He will also explain that clear administrative rules are both efficient and fair methods to save hundreds of civilians without putting police lives at further risk.

The Ethics of Policing conference is hosted by the Rock Ethics Institute in the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts, with support from Penn State’s Justice Center for Research, Social Science Research Institute, Penn State Law, Penn State University Libraries, Department of Sociology and Criminology, Department of African American Studies, and Department of Philosophy. For more information, visit

The Rock Ethics Institute was established through a $5 million gift in 2001 from Doug and Julie Rock to the College of the Liberal Arts. The institute’s mission is to promote ethical awareness and inquiry across the University, and in the public and professional sectors, through a three-fold emphasis on teaching, research and outreach. Recently, the Rocks endowed the Nancy Tuana Directorship of the Rock Ethics Institute with an additional $5 million gift, which was part of a broader commitment they made to the College during "For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students."

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 12, 2018