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An Unexpected Source of Civil Rights Support: Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

On March 4, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice announced some troubling findings as the result of two civil rights investigations related to Ferguson, Missouri. Could earning a degree online be part of the solution?

Attorney General Eric Holder summarized the findings, which included a pattern of civil rights violations by the Ferguson Police Department: “Our investigation showed that Ferguson police officers routinely violate the Fourth Amendment—stopping people without reasonable suspicion, arresting them without probable cause, and using unreasonable force against them.”*

Ferguson is, unfortunately, just one of a series of recent examples of deeply divided communities where distrust and hostility between police and residents run deep, bias and prejudice run rampant, and a universal sense of justice is hard to find.

An Unexpected Source of Civil Rights Support: Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Social Change Can Start With Online Criminal Justice Programs at Every Level

This dynamic represents a national teaching moment, and the foundational education can begin with criminal justice degree programs in colleges and universities across the U.S. Online criminal justice degree programs can have a major impact on eliminating bias, prejudice, and preventing the unnecessary loss of lives.

Online degree programs like Walden’s BS in Psychology with a Criminal Justice specialization provide insight into how to relate to people of different cultures and diverse backgrounds while offering a better understanding of the dynamics of living and working in a multicultural world. Another approach to an online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice incorporates a specialization in human services for criminal justice, with a capstone course in international justice and human rights.

Graduate students in master’s in criminal justice programs often explore the many facets and controversies of the criminal justice system—including ethics and social justice—at a higher level. They may also examine how race, class, sexual orientation, and gender relate to social justice and inequality. Students can also pursue an MS in criminal justice with a variety of specializations.

Those who choose to take their online education as far as the doctoral level can even find criminal justice PhD programs, where they can integrate scholarly research into the most current real-world issues, theories, and practices in national and international criminal justice administration.

Raising Standards to Help Improve Outcomes

Behind the frightening headlines and news reports, progress is happening. In the wake of the Ferguson investigations, U.S. Attorney General Holder announced updated Department of Justice (DOJ) guidelines for federal law enforcement agencies, creating new standards and safeguards with the goal of ending racial profiling by law enforcement at the federal level.

In addition, the DOJ “has enlisted a team of criminal justice researchers to study racial bias in law enforcement in five U.S. cities and recommend strategies to address the problem.” This kind of data analysis can help identify biased behavior and lead to processes that address bias throughout the criminal justice system. And as the call for additional research and leadership continues, criminal justice experts with various degrees and education levels will be in higher demand—creating a greater, more positive impact.

Explore Walden University’s online criminal justice degree programs to launch, advance, or change the direction of your career. Earn your graduate degree in a convenient online format that fits your busy life.

*U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs, “Justice Department Announces Findings of Two Civil Rights Investigations in Ferguson, Missouri,” Justice News, March 4, 2015, on the Internet at

†Center for American Progress, “4 Ideas That Could Begin to Reform the Criminal Justice System and Improve Police–Community Relations,” December 18, 2014, on the Internet at