By University Marketing
Mar 18, 2019
Brian Schaefer, assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice, initially intended to make a career in law enforcement, changed career paths while pursuing his master’s degree at Eastern Kentucky University.
“It was while taking classes at EKU that I really got interested in academe and thinking through problems of crime and justice, how the system works and that led me to go on and get my PhD,” said Schaefer, who received his PhD in justice administration from the University of Louisville in 2015. “It has given me the opportunity to teach, conduct research and interact with students and other faculty.”
His research interests are focused on policing, particularly police discretion, narcotic policing, police use of force, police training, and police technologies. He has participated in multiple research projects including a Project Safe Neighborhoods grant evaluating hot spots policing and focused on deterrence and the evaluation of Louisville Metro Police Department’s Implementation of Body Worn Cameras.
“One of the projects I’ve been working on is police adoption of body-worn cameras, so I and some colleagues from the University of Louisville evaluated the Louisville Metro Police Department’s body-worn camera adoption to look at the outcomes and if they reduce the use of force, reduce complaints against officers,” he said.
Schaefer’s interest in police and technology led to another project, where he obtained body-worn cameras from a police department in order to watch the interaction between police and civilians.
“We code for a couple hundred behavioral, situational, and environmental indicators. The idea is to understand the decision-making processes by officers, so we’re reviewing over 700 incidents to understand police-civilian interactions,” he said. “It’s been about a more than year process because it takes over an hour to watch and code videos, but students have helped me develop the coding instrument .”
Schaefer is also part of the Research Network for Misdemeanor Justice, based out of John Jay College in New York. It’s an 8-city research network that looks at how lower level offenses impact the criminal justice system.
“When it comes to the criminal justice system, we tend to think about felony crimes, but the reality is that most people sitting in jails or coming into contact with police are for misdemeanors,” he said. “We’re working with officials in Louisville to get an understanding of the jail population and how jails are impacting the court system and vice versa, and this is the third year for that project.”
In the fall of 2018, Schaefer was named a research fellow for the National Center for Spectator Sport Safety and Security.
Based at the University of Southern Mississippi, the organization focuses on stadium security and preparing for large events. Schaefer is involved in the development of a survey to understand what approaches professional and collegiate sport venues are taking toward security, as well as the policies and tactics they implement.
Now in his third year at Indiana State, Schaefer worked at the University of Central Missouri for one year before coming to State in the fall of 2016.
“One of our strengths as a department is the connections we keep with our alumni,” he said. “Our faculty are active in bringing back alumni who are holding or have held high positions across agencies. We try to bring them back and create a network of job opportunity for our students.”
One of Schaefer’s main goals is for students to leave his class with the ability and desire to seek out and use quality information to further their careers and make sound policy decisions.
“I like to take the opportunity in my intro to criminology course to have students think about crime myths, so those stories that are told about offenders and our policies for how to solve crimes, especially those myths prominent in popular culture,” he said. “I encourage students to think about their existing definitions or ideas of who are criminals? For instance, I always ask students how many of them are criminals and a couple might raise their hand, so I follow-up by asking how many of them have broken the law? Everyone raises their hand because everyone has broken minor laws, like running red lights. Then I ask again why they don’t identify as criminals?”
It’s Schaefer’s way of getting students to start questioning their own beliefs, so they can start taking on new information, data and research to evaluate their views on criminal justice.
“In other courses, I use hands-on strategies where I’ve had students look at hotspot maps, or micro locations of high volume of criminal activity, and get students to ask questions and determine how to reduce the crimes occurring,” he said. “I want them to think about not just using police resources, but to also think about what people can do on their own to prevent crimes, like locking doors and windows. It’s about thinking beyond the criminal system to solve our problems and recognizing that a lot of challenges we face are structural, so the economic, political, even our education policies all have implications for criminal activity and how we respond.”