Famously known as “the voice of God,” award-winning actor Morgan Freeman has teamed up with University of Mississippi criminal justice professor Linda Keena in donating $1 million to the institution.
The money will be used to create a new center focused on policing, the Center for Evidence-Based Policing and Reform. The first $500,000 will be invested in start-up costs, while the remaining half will be placed in an endowment.
This center will be the first of its kind in the state, and only one of a few in the entire country. It is currently awaiting approval from the state’s Institutions of Higher Education.
In a university press release, Freeman revealed how his donation was inspired by events of the past year, particularly the death of George Floyd and other Black people in police encounters.
“It’s time we are equipping police officers with training and ensuring ‘law enforcement’ is not defined only as a gun and a stick. Policing should be about that phrase ‘To Serve’ found on most law enforcement vehicles,” he explained.
Freeman said that news of these events stayed with him, encouraging him to help police find more peaceful alternatives to potential conflict.
“I often talk to police officers when I see them out and ask how they would do their work if they didn’t have guns. Support of this center is about finding ways to help officers and arrive at solutions,” he added.
Improving Training for Law Enforcement
Keena also believes that law enforcement can be improved by providing better training that looks at the societal issues affecting the behavior of officers.
“The goal should be to give officers as many tools as possible to do their jobs more effectively. Our faculty will address critical issues inherently interwoven in the current and historic landscape of policing such as race, class, bias and lack of compassion,” Keena explained.
“Requiring law enforcement only to be recertified in the use of their guns each year is not sufficient,” she added.