National Science Foundation awards more than $600K to EMU research team to study civilian- led police oversight boards

YPSILANTI — To help improve police-community relations, the National Science Foundation awarded a national team of researchers, led by faculty at Eastern Michigan University, with a grant totaling more than $600K to study civilian-led police oversight boards in Washtenaw County, San Diego County, and Milwaukee County.

Kevin Karpiak, EMU professor of sociology, anthropology, and criminology, and his team will serve as principal investigator for a national team that will shape local oversight practices and collect and analyze data on what the team can learn from civilian oversight boards. These boards enhance the transparency and accountability of policing and help strengthen relationships between the police and the community.

The research entails selecting locations with distinct racial dynamics and varying structures of civilian-led police oversight commissions. “The project focuses on the varied histories, forms, practices, and successes and failures of civilian oversight,” Karpiak said. “Investigators and student researchers analyze the variations in communication and practices to understand the specific implementations of civilian oversight of police and to gauge the potential value of civilian oversight commissions on a broader scale.”

After taking an interest in the development of Karpiak’s own local civilian-led oversight board, he recognized a need for the study on a larger scale.

Karpiak recognized a tremendous desire and energy in the region for criminal justice reform when he came into closer contact with local community activists, law enforcement officials, and other people involved in local government. Despite shared energy and consensus, the current challenges have been more challenging to achieve. For this reason, many people expressed a desire for academic partners to help with these challenges. Karpiak said these factors led to the multi-institutional study on the civilian-led police oversight boards and the South East Michigan Criminal Justice Research Project at EMU.

About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 14,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and its graduate school. National publications regularly recognize EMU for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. Visit the
University’s rankings and points of pride websites to learn more. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website. To stay up to date on University news, activities and announcements, visit EMU Today.

January 18, 2023

Written by:
Victoria Scott

Media Contact:
Melissa Thrasher