Law Students Appointed as Fellows to the American Bar Association’s Legal Education Police Practices Consortium

Melissa Bianchi Stephen Tobler

LANSING, MI and RIVERVIEW, FL—Western Michigan University Cooley Law School has announced students Melissa Bianchi and Stephen J. Tobler have been appointed as fellows to the American Bar Association’s Legal Education Police Practices Consortium. They were selected to research public data about local and state law enforcement agencies.

Several dozen law school deans created the consortium in 2020 in response to police killings and use of force in primarily black communities and recognition of the need for a centralized database for much of this information, especially at the national level. The data shared could lead to better policing policies and practices, and promote collaboration, where appropriate, between law schools and local police departments. This term’s fellowship comprises 40 students from 28 law schools representing 18 states, including Washington, D.C. The consortium has 60 member law schools across the country.

Bianchi learned of the opportunity through the recommendation of a professor after writing a scholarly paper about how the “Defund the Police” slogan negatively impacts law enforcement agencies nationwide. Her research highlighted that more effective training for officers is a better solution than defunding. If states can standardize training and operating procedures through their state’s attorney general, this solution might help resolve the misconduct issues, she explained.

A shared passion Bianchi has with the consortium stems from a Margaret Mead quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Bianchi hopes to accomplish a positive change for law enforcement agencies with her fellow Cooley colleague and the fellows across the country.

Tobler has conducted risk assessments of over 1,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide. He has provided use-of-force and other law enforcement training to individuals at the basic police academy, and in-service: basic, advanced, and instructor levels. Tobler also served two terms on the WMU-Cooley Law review.

Tobler said he is excited about the opportunity to help keep officers safe while being appropriately effective in assisting their communities.

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