Gail Hurst joined the criminal justice faculty this year to focus on her specialty: racial attitudes of juveniles toward police. Department chairman Jack Richardson says her arrival, which doubles the number of full-time criminal justice professors, raises the profile of teaching and research in the department because of her research skills and because she is the first in the department to have a Ph.D. in criminal justice.
Why did you study criminal justice? “I can’t say I had a passion for it. It was that I had to declare a major and [Morris Brown College] offered it. I knew I wanted to teach. The chair of the department, Johnnie Myers, shaped my career. She made criminal justice more than just policy and lawyers. She introduced me to theory and why people commit crimes. She gave me the tools I needed.”
What is the focus of your research? “My research is geared toward juveniles and their attitudes toward police. A lot of people are writing about attitudes by adults, but no one is writing about juveniles. We’re trying to see if what we found in adults applies to juveniles.”
What conclusions have you drawn? “I’ve found their attitudes are more negative toward police, while adults’ are more positive. African Americans are more negative than whites, but all are negative. Juveniles have had a lot of contact with police, but they felt police did not treat them well. A major reason was that a lot of kids saw or heard about police being rude to kids or physically assaulting citizens, and it was vicarious misconduct by police. I found girls are more negative than guys in their attitudes. A lot of times it goes into what you’ve been taught and, historically, police and blacks have not had a very good relationship.”