Q&A With New Director of Criminal Justice
February 24, 2013
Dr. Robert J. Kane
Director and Professor of Criminal Justice, Department of Culture and Communication
Hometown: Santa Rosa, CA
Degree: Temple University, Ph.D. Criminology and Justice
Research interests: Police authority and accountability; communities and crime; the nexus among crime, justice, and urban health
Q: What did you do before coming to Drexel?
A: I was an associate professor in the School of Criminology at Arizona State University. I have also held tenured and tenure-track positions at American University and Northeastern University.
Q: What’s your favorite book?
A: Orwell’s 1984. Aside from its obvious social and political relevance, it’s a darn good story!
Q: What’s your favorite food/restaurant?
A: My favorite food dish is chicken in yellow curry with mango salsa over a bed of jasmine rice. My favorite restaurant (which, perhaps ironically, does not actually serve my favorite dish) is Grimaldi’s Pizzeria in Scottsdale, AZ, which makes coal-fired pizza and serves it with a decent Chianti. My family and I had a standing “date” virtually every Friday evening at Grimaldi’s when we lived in Scottsdale.
Q: If you could have dinner with three people (dead or alive) who would they be?
A: Hillary Clinton, Thomas Jefferson, and Jon Stewart.
1st Alternate: Patrick Stewart (AKA: Captain Jean-Luc Picard)
2nd Alternate: Morgan Freeman (“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”)
Note: I’d really like to have dinner with all five around one table.
Q: What’s one thing you couldn't live without?
Q: What was the most memorable class you took as an undergrad and why?
A: Ecological Biology. Though I was not a science major in college, I was (and remain) a strong environmental advocate. The Ecological Biology course offered an academic framework that (1) exposed me to important readings in population ecology, and (2) gave me the opportunity to explore and focus my views on ecology and the environment using evidence-based pedagogy. The professor was inspiring; he was my introduction to National Public Radio, and he taught students the importance of examining the “connectivity” of all organisms that shared space in the natural environment. I credit the professor and that class for my strong interest in urban ecology, which assumes similar population-based processes as biological ecology.
Q: Which current event/issue do you think students should know more about and why?
A: Climate change. Like most environmental disasters, global warming has a strong sociological component to it: some communities are better prepared than others to absorb the impacts of climate change. As changing weather patterns alter the robustness of local economies, we in the social sciences will observe changes in crime, health, and justice outcomes, to which nimble minds with the ability to work beyond disciplinary boundaries will have to respond if our species is to survive on this planet.
Q: What’s one thing every student who plans on taking one of your classes should know about you?
A: I expect them to have read all the assigned materials before they walk through the door.
Q: What made you want to become a professor?
A: When I was having a tough time landing a job as a police officer in the early 1990s due to the recession, I entered a master’s program in criminology to weather the economic storm. It was after my second week when I was exposed to so much interesting research that I realized my best opportunity to impact the crime and justice arena would be through research, writing, and teaching. It seemed the best way to engage in those activities on a professional, and largely autonomous, basis was as a university professor.
Q: What do you consider to be your biggest achievement thus far in your career?
A: Conducting the largest study of police misconduct ever carried out in an American police department (the NYPD) while using a rigorous research design and grounding the study in multiple criminological theories. To the extent that the findings reported in my new book, as well as the multiple journal articles I’ve published from that study, actually influence policing policies with respect to hiring, retaining, and supervising police officers in ways that protect against misconduct (particularly in the most fragile urban communities), I will be satisfied that knowledge created at a university has fulfilled its ultimate responsibility: to improve society.
Q: What course would you be most excited to teach at Drexel and why?
A: I teach a new course called “Crime and the City,” which uses Philadelphia as its primary laboratory. Philadelphia has served as a setting for some of the most influential criminological research in my discipline. The opportunity to expose students to such ecological theories that were developed by studying several Philadelphia neighborhoods is exciting because I can take my students to these very places to show them in person what the settings actually look like.
Q: What do you hope to add to the CoAS community?
A: A new academic department called “Crime, Justice & Social Policy,” which will ground our students in the methods of studying, assessing, and developing crime policy across myriad dimensions of justice—both local and global. I hope this new department, when formed, will attract students who bring with them levels of engagement that require our faculty to step up our game if we are going to effectively teach and learn from each new generation of student leaders.
See Dr. Kane in action: CoAS Dean’s Seminar: “Policing Unhealthy Places: A New Paradigm for Facilitating Urban Health,” Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 3:30PM-5:00PM, Disque 109.