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Forensic Science Major Leads Discussion About Race Relations and Law Enforcement
Devansh Sheth ’23 wanted to help foster a conversation and promote change. So, he organized and hosted a virtual panel discussion, bringing together professionals in law enforcement and the University community.
July 13, 2020
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
When Devansh Sheth ’23 saw the recent incidents of violence and police brutality taking place across the country, he knew he wanted to do something. Although he saw a lot of posts on social media that aimed to spread awareness, he wanted to do more.
While processing his own emotions, Sheth began thinking about how he could contribute to the dialogue in a positive way. He decided to create a platform to enable multiple perspectives and voices to be heard. With guidance from one of his criminal justice professors, Michael Jenkins, Ph.D., and a friend, he organized a virtual panel discussion to start a conversation about race.
“I know I am only one person, but just as a tiny pebble creates great ripples when dropped in a lake, my goal for this event was to inspire participants to reach out to others – especially those they disagree with – and serve the greater good together,” said Sheth, a forensic science major. “In this way, small conversations lead to big narratives, and, eventually, to bigger societal changes.”
Sheth conceived and organized the event, titled “Bridging the Divide,” over the span of only two weeks. Hosted on Zoom, Sheth brought together a panel of experts for a discussion about race relations and law enforcement.
Danielle Cooper, Ph.D., an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven, encouraged participants to explore their feelings and not to “flee from feeling unsettled.”
“I encourage people to do a ‘gut check,’” continued Dr. Cooper, who serves as director of research at the University’s Tow Youth Justice Institute. “Center yourself and ask yourself what about the situation makes you uncomfortable. Lots of people – especially Black people – are in excruciating pain, and that doesn’t exclude people in the criminal justice field. That’s what I’m dealing with myself, and there has to be action.”
"I know I am only one person, but just as a tiny pebble creates great ripples when dropped in a lake, my goal for this event was to inspire participants to reach out to others – especially those they disagree with – and serve the greater good together."Devansh Sheth ’23
Sheth led the discussion and invited the audience to ask questions through Zoom’s messaging feature. They discussed topics such as civilian review boards and rebuilding relationships between law enforcement and local communities.
Panelist Lorenzo Boyd, Ph.D., the University of New Haven’s vice president for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer and director of the University’s Center for Advanced Policing, discussed the importance of empathy, of understanding one’s privilege, and of building bridges.
“As a Black man with a Ph.D., I understand the level of privilege I have, but I understand that people in society view me as a potential threat,” said Dr. Boyd. “If my skin color can be seen as a threat, am I ever unarmed?”
Sheth hopes the panel will encourage and enhance education and training among the University community – and beyond. He wanted the panel to be a platform where multiple perspectives and ideas could be shared, and he hopes it encourages his fellow students to get involved.
“I was someone who has never gotten involved, but I wanted to work on exploring solutions so something like this does not continue to happen in the future,” he said. “I want to show that it is really easy to make your ideas into a reality. You just have to want it enough.”