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New U-D Mercy Law Dean Is Dedicated to Advancing Anti-Racism and Equity in Her Role

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Image credit: Jelani Jefferson Exum

Jelani Jefferson Exum says the conviction of Derek Chauvin is an opportunity to rethink policing and do more systemic reform.

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The University of Detroit Mercy School of Law recently appointed professor Jelani Jefferson Exum to the role of dean. Exum is an advocate for racial justice and expert on sentencing law and procedure. Exum will also be the first African American dean of the U-D Mercy Law School.

Think about what you need police for. Try to identify the specific areas where you need police. And think about defunding as funding only the things that you need police for.” —Jelani Jefferson Exum, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law  


Listen: New U-D Mercy Law Dean on creating a proactive criminal justice system.


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Jelani Jefferson Exum is the new dean of University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. She says she is dedicated to advancing the work of anti-racism and equity in her role. “I am honored to be the first African American dean at the University of Detroit Mercy Law School,” she says.

Exum says right now, after the conviction of Derek Chauvin, there is an opportunity to rethink policing in the frame of anti-racism and accountability. ”This moment, this guilty verdict, gives us a chance to say, ‘OK, we had the right outcome in this case, but we can’t stop at just one case’ … We have to do some more systemic and policy regulation changes,” she says.

Exum says she supports the concept of defunding or “unbundling” the police, and encourages people to think about those phrases in terms of reinvestment. ”Think about what you need police for. Try to identify the specific areas where you need police. And think about defunding as funding only the things that you need police for,” she says.

Exum says reallocating police funding to other services, such as mental health or deescalation, is a necessary part of police reform. “The thought is really shifting resources to build out these other services that can be properly responsive … that don’t always require someone with a gun to show up.”

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