People of Georgian: Police degree professor opens students’ eyes to life as minority
February 19, 2021

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Our Georgian College community is full of unique, inspiring perspectives, and we’re sharing different ones each week.

People of Georgian: Meet Eleanor Gittens

I remember when I was younger, I used to watch all of the cop shows, like Cagney and Lacey, and Hunter. In present day, it would be shows like NCIS and Law and Order.

And I would read all of the crime books – James Patterson, Ruth Ware, etc.

People always said to me, “You’re too obsessed with this kind of stuff.” But for me, it wasn’t so much an obsession, it just was a passion. I really enjoyed it.

My dream was always to work on projects with various police services.

A person smiles at the camera.

When it comes to academics, I’m passionate about the geography of crime, offender profiling, criminal career research, violent offenders, sex offenders, anything like that, which is really what my masters and PhD were about.

As part of an agreement to work with police while gathering data for my PhD, I had to volunteer time in their departments, and I really loved that.

Without that connection through Georgian, I don’t know if I would have been able to start doing what I love so quickly.

Eleanor Gittens, Professor

When I became a professor in Georgian’s Community Safety programs, I felt it was a good fit because it was a police studies degree program and the college was next door to OPP Headquarters in Orillia.

I thought, “Well, this is a perfect opportunity to work with police.”

Continuing my work at Georgian really gave me a foot in the door to make more connections, and I’ve since worked with the OPP, Toronto Police Service, and the Barrie Police Service.

Without that connection through Georgian, I don’t know if I would have been able to start doing what I love so quickly.

A group of people stand outside and smile at the camera.

‘They’ll often come back to me and say that trip was life changing for them’

At Georgian, I’ve designed trips to Barbados for policing students to see how different cultures live and communicate, so they can develop a level of appreciation for other people’s differences all grounded in creating a safe and healthy community.

Essentially, we take mostly white students to a country where they would now be considered a minority. Then they develop some idea of what that may feel like.

It has gone very, very well, and they’ll often come back to me and say that trip was life changing for them. I like to hear that.

A group of people in police uniforms smile at the camera.

‘We’re asking police officers to also be social workers, paramedics, counsellors, pharmacists’

When it comes to the idea of defunding the police, most people aren’t saying we should get rid of the police altogether, rather that social services serve a greater purpose.

We will always have to manage crime, but we’re asking police officers to also be social workers, paramedics, counsellors, pharmacists – and they haven’t been trained for it.

For example, a police officer can be called to a home for a domestic incident. They could charge those people for domestic assault or they could figure out what the underlying factors are, such as food or job insecurity or some other type of trauma.

This idea of defunding the police is really around funding the social services necessary to support your community appropriately.

This idea of defunding the police is really around funding the social services necessary to support your community appropriately.

Eleanor Gittens, Professor

At Georgian, I’m part of a dedicated group of staff and faculty working to address equity, diversity and inclusion in our community.

This is something we need to have at Georgian – an avenue where like-minded people can come together and feel safe, and support and celebrate each other.

I have met so many really wonderful people, and now I feel as though we’ve started to develop a real community.

Eleanor Gittens, Professor in Georgian’s Community Safety programs. She created a trip to Barbados for Honours Bachelor of Police Studies students to gain an appreciation for other cultures and ethnicities and experience life as a minority.

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