A routine interaction between a police officer and a civilian escalates into shouting. Moments later shots are fired. In the age of smartphone cameras, stories like these have become part of an ongoing narrative centered on race and law enforcement. The Sandra Bland case, for example, is among the most notorious.

Karen Roebuck, professor of criminal justice at Lamar University in Beaumont, is hoping to curb incidents like these. She’s launching a unique certificate program for police and the general public to address improving communication in law enforcement.

“With technology being what it is today, it’s an excellent plus to our community and our society,” Roebuck says. “However, it’s also been a stronghold in eliminating communication.”

Roebuck says that improving communication skills among younger officers, who tend to rely on texting and social media, is an important step in preventing unjust police shootings.

“Verbal communication is our first line of defense,” Roebuck says.

Written by Emma Whalen.

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