Originally from Baltimore, Chris Jackson is a peacekeeper and current student, completing his Doctorate in Conflict Psychology. After joining the Navy at 17 and working as a police officer in Colorado, Jackson decided to get his degree in conflict resolution and is now working towards a PSYED. Through his education, he desires to impact law enforcement to be better peacekeepers, helping those who are on probation or who have been in some trouble with the law with their anger management. Jackson sees the importance in helping both sides to the situation and the importance of humanizing people who are in conflict so it can be resolved. As for his PSYED, Jackson’s dissertation is on the importance of building rapport between teachers and African American male students and what this means for both graduating and lifelong success.
While working as a police officer in Colorado, Jackson was able to get his first experience in peacekeeping. He was able to watch older mentors in the field de-escalating people in crisis. He mentioned how one of his mentors had an “Andy Griffith style of law enforcement” where he was empathetic, sincere, and able to change the most volatile of situations into successful interactions. Seeing this new approach to law enforcement where an officer was able to see the humanity in another person when in a difficult situation was new to Jackson and he knew that this was an aspect in law enforcement that was missing. After seeing this change in approach, Jackson understood that there needs to be a better connection between police officers and the public. From this experience sparked a desire to better understand conflict and how he would be able to use his degrees to help guide law enforcement into this new way of thinking.
Aside from his higher education work, Jackson currently wears several hats. One of those hats is supervising a mental health and substance abuse facility. At this facility, he runs the weekend shifts and mediates employee disputes with patience. In addition to this, he is also working on training issues he sees in police departments, including verbal de-escalation training. From his experience, he has noticed that officers are primarily taught fighting skills over de-escalation techniques. Jackson believes that fighting skills should be used as a last resort rather than a first option, which is why he is passionate about changing how we train police officers. In addition to this, Chris also looks forward to the work he will do with PPS as a Peacebuilder. He finds this work an important long term goal for himself.
When discussing big challenges, Chris was able to share what he has learned and experienced during his education and while on the job. One of his biggest takeaways from his time mediating and resolving conflict is looking at a conflict and determining, “I am not the right person for this”. There is no magic formula for resolving conflict, and sometimes it is better to admit that there is someone else out there who could handle a specific situation better than you could. Jackson reflects and states that everyone has their own story. Depending on what that background is, there could be someone who could relate more to a person depending on their race, culture, gender, etc. When this does seem to be a roadblock when mediating, passing the baton is always the best move. It’s about settling the conflict and making the parties in conflict comfortable enough to work through the issues at hand. Jackson gracefully added that most conflict can be settled non-violently if we all had the patience to take the time to do it that way. We can’t take things too personally and have to keep emotions out of it. True compassion is not taking things personally, and in order to be a mediator, one needs true compassion.
Jackson was asked what advice he would give to people who are starting out on their peacekeeping journey. The first piece of advice he gave was to absorb as much information as one can on the topic. Whether it be from books, articles, or lectures, getting information on the topic and being able to see others’ ways of tackling peacekeeping is important to learning as much as one can before practicing it in person. His second piece of advice was to “get your reps in”. By this, he meant that as soon as one is able to get out and start doing peacekeeping work, they need to practice as much as possible. He stated that, “Knowledge without zeal is useless” and that once you get the knowledge you have to practice.