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Community event ‘Why Police Do What They Do’ coming to GRC on Thursday, April 21

April 17, 2016

Thursday's even in G
Thursday's even in Green River will explain the facts behind some recent national law-enforcement controversies.

On Thursday, April 21, at 6 p.m., Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Traci Ciepiela, a former police officer, will present “Why Police Do What They Do: A Discussion,” in the John Wesley Powell Auditorium at the Green River Center. This free community event will look at the case law that guides law-enforcement practice and the tools and tactics officers are allowed to use to apprehend suspects.      

This event was previously held at the Rock Springs campus in March. Ciepiela said she was excited to bring the program to Green River, and she invited community members to come out and bring their questions about how law enforcement agencies operate.   

“Law enforcement has nothing to hide,” Ciepiela said. “But many agencies haven’t been doing a great job at explaining to the public why certain things happen the way they do. This generally leaves a concerned public upset when they see things like the officer-involved shooting in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. And no one ever seems to explain why that officer wasn’t charged with a crime. It is time to open the door and educate everyone on why police do what they do.”

The April 21 program will include discussion about Supreme Court case law that dictates virtually every aspect of law-enforcement practice and tactics. These cases include: Terry v. Ohio (1968), which held that officers could frisk a suspect for weapons if they had a reasonable belief the suspect might be armed, even without probable cause for arrest; Graham v. Connor (1989), which established an “objective reasonableness standard” in evaluating citizen claims of excessive police force; and Tennessee v. Garner (1985), which established limits and guidelines for when deadly force may and may not be used during pursuit of a suspect.

During the discussion, Ciepiela will specifically address the Ferguson, Mo. case in which Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown and ultimately was not charged by a grand jury.

“We will dissect Ferguson and discuss why the grand jury proceeding in that case was the most fair thing that the county could have done,” Ciepiela said. “Everyone got to tell their story that way, something that wouldn’t have happened during a trial.”  

Ciepiela will also discuss the case of Eric Garner, who died in New York City’s Staten Island following the application of a controversial chokehold tactic by arresting officers. 

Also during the program, Ciepiela will discuss the various tools (batons, Tasers, firearms, pepper spray, handcuffs) that are used, and how they are used, by police. The program will include physical demonstrations of some of these items and techniques, though no one present will be Tasered or pepper-sprayed, and there will be no loaded weapons at the program.    

For more information about “Why Police Do What They Do: A Discussion,” contact Prof. Ciepiela at (307) 382-1767 or email her at


For more information, contact Audrey Harton at (307) 382-1661 or
(307) 382-1600 or toll free (800) 226-1181