SFU PhD student to advise U.S. jurisdictions on civilian police oversight – SFU News
2021 is a year of firsts for former Chief Civilian Director of the Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia, Richard Rosenthal. in the USA
Undertaking premieres is not unusual for Rosenthal. He began his career with the youngest prosecutor in Los Angeles at the age of 23, obtaining his JD (Juris Doctor degree) to practice law at the University of California, Berkeley in 1986. He was the first director of the Portland Independent Police Review Division, served as the first police comptroller for the city and county of Denver and was selected to become the first chief civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office ( IIO) from British Columbia.
After his wife fell ill and passed away in 2015, Rosenthal took the time to think about what he wanted in his life. Knowing that his own father obtained his doctorate at the age of 50, Rosenthal realized that it was not too late for him to pursue his own doctorate.
Leaving his position at the IOI a few months earlier to pursue a doctorate in SFU’s criminology program, Rosenthal knew that the transition to student status could be a bit difficult. Considering his early career, he had not been a student for 30 years, and here he was starting master’s courses to earn credits for the doctoral program. While he admitted he had a lot to learn, he also had as much, if not more experience than some of his instructors as a teacher, lecturer, and assistant professor in some of his previous roles.
“I remember the first day I walked into class,” says Rosenthal, “I came straight home from work and was dressed in a suit and tie. All of my classmates were in their twenties and they were clearly wondering why a guest speaker was present for the first class.
Rosenthal continues: “I was also worried because I was already well known in this area and I made decisions that ended up generating negative publicity. We were trying to change an integrated policing culture within the IOI and a lot of people were fired as a result. I was worried that the students would not accept me because they might be concerned about my reputation in the media.
Despite all his concerns, Rosenthal was treated well by students and teachers alike. He was able to bridge the age gap with the students in his program and not only learn from his teachers, but also be treated like a peer in some ways. His supervisor, David McAllister, was the perfect fit for his research.
Rosenthal is grateful for the help of his masters classmates (who helped him through some quantitative aspects of the program) as well as his teachers and, of course, his family. Her two young adult sons and her fiancé were essential in helping her complete her thesis. His sons ran the house and farm and one of them helped visualize his data. His new fiancé drove him to back-to-back meetings in Seattle to gather his dissertation data before the border closed.
He’s busier now than when he worked full time with the IOI. He gets up early in the morning to take care of his chickens, spends the afternoons and weekends tending to his beehives and his lavender field and as the oldest recruit (55 years old) of the Mission fire department, responds to fire calls anytime of the day and night. Its lavender is sold to local florists, but its “liquid golden” honey is only for family and friends.
His doctorate not only adds credibility to his advice, but also helps create a niche for the services he offers. He is now the only person with a doctorate in North America with experience in setting up multiple civilian oversight agencies.
With the recent attention paid to minority police deaths in recent years, Rosenthal’s research on civilian oversight models, the experience of establishing and managing the IOI in B.C. , understanding US criminal law, policing and criminal procedures, he stands ready to advise US jurisdictions on the implementation of these important initiatives.
“Managing risk to the people and communities served by the police is at the heart of my activities. Models of civilian oversight, when implemented and operated properly, have the potential to save lives. “
This is why Rosenthal has now begun to consult with Washington State on how to create and manage the first independent critical incident investigation agency in the United States, with the aim of building police confidence in the within the community, reduce the risk of police using lethal force and ultimately save lives.