By Jackson Taylor, News Editor
After a series of shootings of unarmed men by police officers in Missouri, Ohio and New York, President Barack Obama responded last month by initiating a task force on 21st Century Policing. Sam Walker, professor emeritus in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, was one of four experts called to serve on a panel to provide their recommendation to President Obama. On Jan. 13, Walker voiced his opinion before a presidential task force on how to end the hostility between police departments and the community. Walker joined three other panelists, including Charles Ogletree, director of the Harvard Law School; Jennifer Eberhardt, associate professor of psychology at Stanford University; and Tom Tyler, a professor of law and psychology at the Yale Law School. Walker gave his testimony with a focus on the usefulness of courtesy and positive language that should be used by police officers when serving the community. “The entire Ferguson tragedy began when the officer pulled up to Michael Brown, who was allegedly jaywalking, and reportedly said, ‘Get the ‘f’ on the sidewalk,’” Walker said. “Disrespectful and offensive language by police officers occurs day-in and day-out all across the U.S., building distrust and hostility toward the police. Some people might say that language, in whatever form, is not that important compared to deaths at the hands of the police. I disagree. This is where people meet the police.” Walker argues language is a serious national issue that should be addressed from the very top of the judicial system. “What we need is a national campaign—led by community groups, national civil rights and civil liberties organizations and police chiefs associations—to demand an end to offensive language by police,” Walker said. “Dr. Walker is probably the most prominent national expert on the issue of police accountability,” said John Bartle, dean of the College of Public Affairs and Community Service, which houses the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Walker spent 40 years in the UNO School of Criminology and Criminal Justice where he taught from 1974 to 2005. He received a Ph.D. in American history from Ohio State University in 1973. His research in field of civil liberties, policing and criminal justice is extensive. He is the author of 14 books and has been interviewed by the New York Times, The Washington Post, PBS/Frontline, CNN and many others. His book, “Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama,” won the Langum Prize for the Best Book in American Legal History for 2012.