Renowned Scholar Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff is appointed as Franklin A. Thomas Professor in Policing Equity
President Jeremy Travis of John Jay College announced the establishment of the Franklin A. Thomas Professorship in Policing Equity, created with $2.5 million in grants from the Ford Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropies. The creation of this new professorship at John Jay was approved by the Board of Trustees of the City University of New York (CUNY) at their meeting on March 21.
President Travis also announced that respected social psychologist Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, one of the nation’s leading scholars on the phenomenon of implicit bias, will be the first to occupy this named professorship.
“I am very excited about this confluence of opportunities for John Jay College,” said President Travis, “and more importantly, for the broader community, which is poised for new thinking about the role of the police, particularly a new relationship between police and communities of color. I am deeply grateful to the Ford Foundation and Atlantic Philanthropies for their generosity and commitment to this ambitious project. I am also grateful to our CUNY Chancellor Milliken for his support of this important new faculty position at John Jay.”
The new professorship is named for Franklin A. Thomas, one of the country’s most prominent and inspiring philanthropists and civic leaders. He was president of the Ford Foundation for 17 years from 1979 to 1996, where he advanced a global agenda promoting human rights, democracy and economic development. He also served as the founding president of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, as an economic development executive in South Africa, and as Chair of the 911 Fund. In addition, he served in the New York City Police Department as the Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters and General Counsel from 1965-67. He was the first African-American appointed to this position in the NYPD during a turbulent time in the nation’s history when unrest and race riots spread in many cities across the country. Born in Bedford-Stuyvesant and educated at Columbia University and Columbia Law School, Thomas also served in the United States Air Force and as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York.
“We need to do more to understand and fight bias in our criminal justice system,” said Darren Walker, president of Ford Foundation. “Every day, we see how inequality affects the policing of communities of color. Frank Thomas has dedicated his life to building bridges, and advancing fairness and justice. This professorship at John Jay is a meaningful way to pay tribute to his legacy–and to contribute to real progress.”
The professorship was created with grants of $1.5-million from the Ford Foundation and $1 million from the Atlantic Philanthropies. Christopher Oechsli, president and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies, said “Atlantic’s final initiatives focus on our historic goals of enhancing equity, opportunity, dignity and inclusion. To that end, we’re pleased to support John Jay College and the first Franklin Thomas professor, Phil Goff, national leaders in promoting racial equity in policing. Together they will create a hub for research, policy advocacy, teaching and mentorship that will yield new knowledge and bring new talent to change policing practices. By demonstrating how data and evidence on implicit bias can promote fairness in policing actions, they will help police departments across the nation uphold the dignity and rights of the communities they serve.”
CUNY Chancellor James Milliken said, “The Franklin A. Thomas Professorship in Policing Equity will expand John Jay’s and CUNY’s scholarship, expertise and contribution on a subject of great importance and concern to New York and the nation. This new faculty position will promote new ideas for changing and improving relationships between police and the communities they serve, and I commend the Ford Foundation and Atlantic Philanthropies for their generosity and involvement. It is fitting that this professorship be named for Franklin A. Thomas, a legendary leader who contributed greatly to economic development in the city, to philanthropy, and to the NYPD.”
Dr. Goff has emerged as one of the most influential thinkers, scholars, and reformers on topics of policing and race, and the challenges facing policing organizations. He is tenured on the faculty at UCLA and is currently a visiting professor at the Harvard Kennedy School. There he has focused on expanding the National Justice Database, an NSF-funded effort to create the largest and most comprehensive resource to fill the knowledge gap surrounding police behavior. The National Justice Database standardizes data on police stops and use of force across the country in an attempt to answer some of the most fundamental questions on racial justice in policing. Additionally, through UCLA, Dr. Goff is one of the partners working with John Jay College – along with the Yale Law School and Urban Institute – on the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, which was funded by a $4.75-million grant from the Department of Justice.
Dr. Goff is co-founder of the influential Center for Policing Equity. As a research and action think tank, the Center brings together law enforcement agencies and leading researchers to study policing equity issues, including race and implicit bias, and provide a scientific basis for reforms in participating police departments around the country. The Center has received the endorsement of the Major City Chiefs Association, which represents the police chiefs of the largest cities. It has received funding from leading foundations, including Russell Sage, William T. Grant, Atlantic, MacArthur, Kellogg, NSF and Open Society Foundations. Dr. Goff will relocate the Center for Policing Equity at John Jay College to continue his valuable research.
“I am humbled to be the inaugural Franklin A. Thomas Professor in Policing Equity,” said Dr. Goff. “The legacy of this man exemplifies the mission of service that I have always emulated in my scholarship. To be able to continue that work at John Jay—the preeminent higher education institute dedicated to criminal justice—is both a professional height and reason to redouble my efforts,” he continued. “My work uses science to forge new languages of justice and shape policy, and there is no college in the country that shares that mission so closely as John Jay. I want to thank Jeremy Travis and his vision for the college. I am honored to play a role in advancing that vision. Just don’t expect me to root for the Mets.” Dr. Goff is a Philadelphia native.
In support of the Center, Dr. Goff has also been named as one of the inaugural Senior Fellows at the newly launched Thurgood Marshall Institute at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc (LDF). In this role, he will implement an undergraduate fellowship program for John Jay students to prepare them for careers in civil rights work on issues of race and policing.
Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel, noted “We are thrilled to have a policing expert with the caliber of intellect, insight, and scholarship of Dr. Goff, particularly at this critical moment in our nation’s reckoning with racially-biased policing policies and practices. We look forward to his collaboration with and service to LDF, and also congratulate him on being named to this newly created professorship at John Jay.”
The grant from the Ford Foundation and Atlantic Philanthropies will also support the recruitment and mentoring of a cohort of Fellows, including a post-doctoral scholar and five undergraduate students each year, who will work at the Center for Policing Equity and contribute to its research projects. Through the work of these Fellows, the Center aims to influence a new generation of scholarship on policing equity and advance innovative reforms.