To Study Modern Policing Grad Student Crowdsources Funding

Michael Sierra-Arevalo, a graduate student in Sociology, came to Yale two years ago to study gun violence and urban gangs. That focus led him to spend much of the last two years with police departments across the country, including New Haven, Chicago, and Oakland. Sierra-Arevalo, who has interests in both quantitative and qualitative methods, has recently turned his attention to the effects of violence, not only in the community, but also on the police officers that serve these urban communities.

His new project seeks to use both semi-structured interviews and field observations to better understand how police experience their interactions with community members, and how they cope (or fail to cope) with exposure to the fallout of urban gun violence. With the combination of interviews and time with officers in the field, Sierra-Arevalo seeks to not only have officers reflect on how they and their fellow officers have experienced their jobs as police, but see how they interact with one another and the community when confronted with the specter of urban violence.

As put by Sierra-Arevalo, “There has been work, for instance, on how doctors experience the death of their patients, and how they’re taught to detach themselves, treat the illness. There has also been work on soldiers, and how formalized boot camp and training helps to desensitize them to the act of taking the life of an enemy combatant. We don’t know all that much about the process by which police are socialized to deal with some of the awful things they see while on the job. I think it’s important to better understand this process, and what kind of implications it has for not only officers’ health, but for how they go about their job and interact with the community.” 

To fund the project, he has set up a crowdsourcing page and, as of a few days ago, has exceeded his goal of $1,500, with more donations still coming in.

Any additional money will go to transcription costs of more interviews, as well as costs associated with travel to present this research at conferences.

He has 15 days remaining to raise additional funds. See the link to the webpage.

Area of study 
Criminal Justice