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August 10, 2020

Roberts' Justice and Security Institute and Brighton Police Department Partner on Criminal Justice Research

Effective this month, Roberts Wesleyan College's  Justice and Security Institute (JSI) and Office of Diversity & Equity will launch a partnership with the Brighton Police Department on a research initiative to identify, measure and understand perceptions among the Black community about Monroe County Police Departments. The initiative will also help detect barriers to recruitment that hinder the hiring and establishment of a more diverse police force. This study is made possible through a research consortium contract provided by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and will start this month, concluding in July 2021.

According to Data USA research from 2018, the five largest ethnic groups in Monroe County are White (70.2 percent), Black or African American (14.3 percent), Hispanic (5.37 percent), Asian (3.72) and two or more races (2.25 percent).

Through this study, the JSI will administer a regional survey to participants aged 16 to 25 years old within high school and college settings. Questions will examine existing community perceptions and concerns, how they were formed and what solutions or recommendations can be implemented to increase diversity within the police force or improve relationships between Monroe County Police Departments and underserved communities. To protect the health, safety and anonymity of the participants, the survey will be administered digitally.

The project will be jointly led by Joseph Testani, director of the JSI and Herb Alexander, director of Diversity & Equity at Roberts Wesleyan College. Testani has extensive experience investigating and managing criminal and national security matters, having served more than 32 years as an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Rochester, Boston and Philadelphia.

A champion for diversity and inclusion at Roberts Wesleyan College, Alexander will serve as an executive project manager throughout the study to ensure that research processes incorporate thoughtful and respectful communication strategies that foster understanding and participation amongst the participants and the greater community. Analytical support will also be provided by Jason Destein, crime and violence prevention strategist at Roberts Wesleyan College. Testani, Alexander and Destein will work collaboratively with Brighton Police Chief David Catholdi and will present all results to the Brighton Police Department, the New York State DCJS and other regional law enforcement agencies upon completion in July 2021.

This initiative is supported by NYS’s Division of Criminal Justice Services and its Criminal Justice Research Consortium which connects police, prosecutors and probation professionals with academics across the state to research and develop evidence-based approaches to address specific public safety issues in their communities. The Research Consortium includes 67 researchers from 32 colleges and universities, including 12 from the State University of New York system.

The JSI, which is part of Roberts Wesleyan College’s Community Institutes, provides targeted threat assessment training and consultation services to local and regional businesses and organizations. On July 1, Roberts Wesleyan officially opened its new Digital Forensics Lab on campus, which will be led by Testani and the JSI team. To learn more about the JSI’s research, consultative and risk-assessment trainings or services, visit the JSI website or contact JSI Director Joseph Testani.


“When Roberts Wesleyan College and the Justice and Security Institute approached me about this opportunity I was excited to partner with them and their team. Law enforcement in general, including agencies in Monroe County, struggle to diversify their departments. To help us build trust and legitimacy, we need to have our departments’ demographics reflect the communities we serve. This study will hopefully shed some light on the barriers law enforcement agencies face in recruiting people of color and provide us with evidenced-based strategies to help us diversify our departments. I look forward to this partnership and using the results from this important study to help us achieve diversity in our organization. I also would like to thank the team at the Division of Criminal Justice Services as they were instrumental in getting us the grant to go forward with this project.
—David Catholdi, chief of police, Brighton Police Department

“We are excited to work with Chief Catholdi on this important project and we are thankful for the support from New York State DCJS, as without them this wouldn’t have been possible. We believe this study is a good first step in the overall effort to improve the relationship between the police and the Black community. I am not sure where this study will lead us, but everyone involved genuinely cares about what we are doing and has the absolute best intentions.”
—Joe Testani, director of the Justice and Security Institute at Roberts Wesleyan College

“This is a critical step in the process of creating true change because it is giving a data-driven voice to segments of our community that have historically felt unheard.”
—Herb Alexander, director of Diversity & Equity at Roberts Wesleyan College

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