The Zehr Institute offers an April 22 webinar and summer online course on police and community partnerships. Vanessa Westley, a 28-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, will be a webinar guest and co-lead the course with Lt. Kurt Boshart, Harrisonburg (Va.) Police Department. Westley is the Bridging the Divide program director and special projects coordinator for the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy Revitalization effort launched in 2013. (Photo by Joaquin Sosa)

Zehr Institute webinar and online course focus on police-community partnerships and restorative justice practices

The Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice announces a special webinar about police and community justice partnerships on Wednesday, April 26, from 4:30-6 p.m. Officer Vanessa Westley, a 25-year veteran with the Chicago Police Department, will be the guest with host and Zehr Institute co-director Carl Stauffer.

One goal of the webinar, which is open to all, is to whet the interest of police and restorative justice practitioners working with police in an upcoming online course.

“Given issues around policing in this country, we are seeing increasing interest among both police departments and communities in restorative justice,” says Howard Zehr, the institute’s co-director. “Restorative justice offers a more positive way to approach wrongdoing, but also possibilities for transforming police/community relationships.  This webinar, as well as the on-line course, offers an opportunity to explore these possibilities.”

The course, which will be co-hosted by Westley and Lieutenant Kurt Boshart, of the Harrisonburg (Va.) Police Department, will be an introduction into restorative justice with an emphasis on its applications in law enforcement. Participants will explore innovative ways to incorporate restorative justice within an agency and in collaboration with their communities. Through presentations and interactive discussions, examples of implementation, including case studies in many police agencies throughout the United States, will be showcased.

The six-session course will begin Wednesday, June 28, from 3-4:30 p.m. (EST) Eastern Standard Time and continue through five consecutive Wednesdays. The final class will be Aug. 2. Cost is $99 plus registration fees. [To register or learn more, email info@zehr-institute.org]
Professors Carl Stauffer and Howard Zehr, co-directors of the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice with Lt. Kurt Boshart, of the Harrisonburg (Va.) Police Department. (Photo by Andrew Strack)

The webinar and series build upon a November 2016 restorative justice retreat co-hosted by the Zehr Institute and Harrisonburg Police Department in Virginia. Agencies from four states — California, Illinois, Massachusetts and Virginia — were represented by executive leadership, who have led or continued to lead implementation of restorative justice practices in their respective jurisdictions. Expert practitioners also attended, including Zehr. [Read the preview and coverage.]

Participants were in agreement that utilizing restorative justice principles—being proactive, using good communication skills, building relationships and social capital by empowering and including community members — called for a holistic culture shift from “the top down and back up,” from new recruits to administration, said Chief Joe Garza, Reedley (Ca.) Police Department. At the same time, they agreed that many police departments, and individual officers, are already doing this kind of outreach, though perhaps under a different name.

Westley is currently program manager for the “Bridging the Divide,” a joint program of the Chicago PD and the Metro YMCA. Westley is also special projects coordinator for the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy Revitalization effort launched in 2013.

Through DePaul University’s Center for Urban Education, she leads the community engagement training program. Vanessa is a restorative justice and “Art of Hosting” practitioner and trainer.

Boshart is a 28-year veteran officer who leads Harrisonburg Police Department’s restorative justice program.

More webinars

The Zehr Institute also offers:

  • April 19, “Listening to a movement,” with Zehr Institute co-directors Howard Zehr and Carl Stauffer.

To register for the webinar, click here. To learn more about the course, click here.

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