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Morgan Freeman and University of Mississippi Professor Linda Keena donated $1 million to the school to launch a legal studies center that focuses on policing.

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The donation was inspired by the slew of violent police encounters involving unarmed Black Americans.

“Look at the past year in our country – that sums it up,” the Hollywood veteran said. “It’s time we are equipping police officers with training and ensuring ‘law enforcement’ is not defined only as a gun and a stick. Policing should be about that phrase ‘To Serve’ found on most law enforcement vehicles.”

The new Center for Evidence-Based Policing and Reform aims to “build relationships and share data with policing agencies as well as use the data to enhance the preparation of students in criminal justice,” according to a news release from the school. It will be “the only one of its kind at a Mississippi university and one of a few in the nation.”

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“It’s time we are equipping police officers with training and ensuring ‘law enforcement’ is not defined only as a gun and a stick,” Freeman said in the news release. “Policing should be about that phrase ‘To Serve’ found on most law enforcement vehicles.”

Keena, an associate professor of criminal justice, hopes communities are motivated to take the necessary steps for “transformative and sustainable change” regarding policing and safety.

“The goal should be to give officers as many tools as possible to do their jobs more effectively,” said Keena. “Our faculty will address critical issues inherently interwoven in the current and historic landscape of policing such as race, class, bias and lack of compassion.”

The center will be located inside the university’s school of applied sciences. The project is pending approval by the state’s Institutions of Higher Education, according to the report.

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