Race, Justice, and Policing: An Outline for Reform

Keynote Speaker and Panelist Bios

Arcadia University, in partnership with the Montgomery County Racial Justice Improvement Task Force and the Cheltenham Branch of the NAACP, will host a virtual symposium on Saturday, Sept. 12. The symposium’s purpose is to further the current dialogue about race and the criminal justice system. But, the organizing committee’s primary goal is more than talk; rather, the symposium is  intended to provide attendees with tangible steps they could take to their communities to advance positive change. The program will include the following segments:

Symposium Cohosts

The Honorable Christopher J. Cerski

Judge Christopher Cerski has served as a Montgomery County District Judge since his initial election in 2005. He received his J.D. from the Temple University Beasley School of Law in 2002. Judge Cerski began his legal practice at the Wolk Law Firm, where he specialized in aviation products liability litigation. He began teaching at Arcadia in 2007.

In the classroom, Judge Cerski teaches various law focused courses including: American Constitutional Law, Constitutional Law II – First Amendment, Writing for the Law, Mock Trial Workshop, Legal Environment of Business, and Criminal Law & Procedure. In 2012, he received the Adjunct Faculty Award for excellence in teaching. 

As a jurist, Judge Cerski advocates progressive restorative justice practices for teens and young adults. In 2009, he drafted a legislative proposal to seal all juvenile records and proceedings at Pennsylvania’s district courts. As a result of his proposal, State Senator Greenleaf introduced Pennsylvania Senate Bill 850 that became law in October 2012. He also serves on the American Bar Association’s Racial Justice Improvement Project—Pennsylvania Task Force. The project seeks to reduce juvenile disparate minority contact with Montgomery County’s criminal justice system.

Angela Bell, Esq.

Angela S. Bell, Esquire received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Kent State University in 1989 and her Juris Doctorate degree from Duquesne University School of Law in 1992.  She began her legal career as a public interest attorney with Lehigh Valley Legal Services, providing legal services to low-income families and continues to focus on consumer and public interest legal issues.  

Ms. Bell is also currently employed as an Assistant District Attorney with the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.  ADA Bell is the Director of the District Attorney’s Youth Aid Panel Juvenile Diversion program.

Ms. Bell also currently serves as the Montgomery County, PA., Disproportionate Minority Contact Coordinator.    As the coordinator of the Montgomery County DMC Community and Strategic Planning Project (CASP), she is responsible for addressing the five phases necessary to satisfy the DMC core strategy and developing a DMC-Reduction Plan.

Ms. Bell was awarded a 2013 Racial Justice Improvement Project grant by the American Bar Association.  As the Executive Site Director Ms. Bell is responsible for facilitating the racial justice improvement project task force focused on addressing policy within the Criminal Justice system that contributes to the racially disparate impact and the overrepresentation of minority youth in the criminal justice system.
 

Keynote Address: Framing the Issue through Experience

Kevin Harden, Jr., Esq.

Kevin Harden, Jr. is an attoryney with Ross Feller Casey in Philadelphia. Harden will speak concerning his personal experiences with the criminal justice system as a defendant, prosecutor, and private litigator. Harden is a highly respected litigator. He joined Ross Feller Casey in 2017 after an exceptional legal career, first as a top criminal prosecutor in Philadelphia, and then as a leading defense attorney for corporations and executives.

Most recently, in June 2020, Harden won a record-setting $6.25 million settlement with the city of Philadelphia on behalf of Terrance Lewis, who was wrongfully incarcerated and spent 21 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. Harden was instrumental in the years-long pro bono effort to exonerate Lewis, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1999 after being falsely convicted of having a role in a murder three years earlier in West Philadelphia. In May 2019, after vigorous re-investigation of the criminal case by Harden and other members of Lewis’ legal team, a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge agreed that a “miscarriage of justice” had occurred and dismissed all charges against Lewis. A month later, Harden, along with founding partner Robert Ross, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging official misconduct in the homicide investigation that led to Lewis’ unjust imprisonment. The settlement in the case is the largest ever in Pennsylvania for an exoneration that didn’t involve DNA evidence.

Harden began his career as a prosecutor in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. While there, Harden worked as a lead prosecutor for an acclaimed organized crime task force and as an advocate for children who were the victims of abuse, sexual assault, and violent crimes. Harden is admitted to practice in Pennsylvania and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. He is originally from West Philadelphia and attended Philadelphia public schools before graduating from the Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and the Temple University Beasley School of Law.

Personal Experiences with Racial Inequality—A Discussion with Everyday People

Moderator: Leslie Jones, Esq. Southern Poverty Law Center 

Leslie Faith Jones, a Philadelphia native and graduate of Spelman College, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Temple University Beasley School of Law, considers herself a People's Lawyer, using what she has learned in nearly 25 years of movement building to empower communities (youth, adults, families) to challenge criminal justice and environmental policies which adversely affect and impact their lives.  She has represented New York State prisioners challenging the bread and water diet in federal court; low income families suffering from racial discrimination at the hands of state actors; students of color who were disproportionately suspended from school and threatened with expulsion; and formerly incarcerated persons returning to their home with hopes for a fresh start.  Leslie has also represented juveniles in delinquency/dependency proceedings; and, indigent adults in parole revocation hearings and misdemeanor/felong criminal cases in regular/specialty courts in New York.  

As the former Policy and Advocacy Director for the Montomgery County (PA) Office of the Public Defender, s he served as facilitator for the County Disproportionate Minority Contact Working Group and Co-Chair for Education, Research, and Training for Pottstown Trauma Informed Community Connection.  She was also a member of the Statewide Advisory Committee on the Use/Effects of Y outh Courts in Pennsylvania's Education/Juvenile Justice Systems.  She continues to focus on the under-developed strengths of at-risk communities as a member of the Juvenile Justice Consortium (co-chair) and Attorney Workgroup for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the PA Youth/Law Enforcement Corporation (vice chair).  She currently works as a Staff Attorney in the Criminal Justice Reform Practice Group of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Jackson, Mississippi.

 Discussing Policing and Criminal Justice Reform and Challenges to Reform 

Moderator: Dr. John Noakes

John Noakes, an internationally known scholar on the policing of political protests, is chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice.  In addition to the policing of protests, Professor Noakes has also published research on the origins of the FBI and FBI surveillance of Hollywood in the 1940s.  At Arcadia he teaches courses on Social Theory, Social Movements, Comparative Criminal Justice Systems, and Wrongful Convictions, among others.  His PhD in sociology is from the University of Pennsylvania. 

The Honorable Stephanie Morales, Esq.  Commonwealth's Attorney, City of Portsmouth, VA

On February 10, 2015, Stephanie Morales was the first woman to be elected Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Portsmouth and is the chief law enforcement officer for her city. Morales was elected on a platform of addressing systemic inequality and dysfunction in the criminal justice system. Since assuming her position, she has launched a program to restore voting rights and make re-entry less difficult for the formerly incarcerated. Morales diversified her office. She also exhibits high ethical standards by recusing herself to avoid conflicts of interest even when it presents a political risk to her personally. She has established the Stephanie N. Morales Future Leaders Initiative where her office has hosted over 100 youth as Junior Commonwealth’s Attorneys over the past two years. 

Joseph D. Wysocki, Chief of Police, Camden County Police Department, New Jersey

Chief Wysocki has served the citizens of Camden for nearly three decades, ascending through the ranks of the Camden City and Camden County Police Departments. As Chief of the Department, he directs all aspects of the Department’s day-to-day operations, sets the mission and command intent and serves as the Department’s senior executive. During his extensive law enforcement career, Chief Wysocki has served in both uniformed and investigative assignments. Chief Wysocki served as the commander of Internal Affairs from 2009 through 2015, during which time he directly shaped the transformation of the Department’s culture of policing and accountability. As the Assistant Chief of the Department, Chief Wysocki was the contemporary architect of several mission-critical initiatives including: Project Guardian, the Department’s Strategic Operations Command, and the team review and accountability process. 

Thomas Nolan, Chief of Police, Upper Merion Police Department, Pennsylvania

Tom Nolan has been with the Upper Merion Township Police Department since 1985, serving in all divisions of the department. In June 2012, he was appointed as Chief of Police for Upper Merion Township PD. In January 2018, Nolan assumed the role of Director of Public Safety/Chief of Police. He is also a Commander for the Montgomery County SWAT—Central Region Team. Tom was a member of two NIJ Special Technical Committees that developed Law Enforcement Equipment Standards and currently is a member of the Inter-Agency Board (IAB), Standards Coordination Subgroup. He serves as a member of the Montgomery County Racial Justice Task Force. 

Nicole Phillips, Esq., Partner, Montgomery McCracken Litigation Department

Nicole Phillips focuses her practice on complex commercial litigation, white collar crime, and government investigations. Prior to joining Montgomery McCracken, Phillips served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) in the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. As an AUSA in the Narcotics Unit, Phillips prosecuted individuals for federal drug trafficking offenses, public corruption, tax and bank fraud conspiracies, and Hobbs Act robbery. While serving as an AUSA, Phillips instructed students on federal and criminal trial advocacy at Temple University Beasley School of Law. Prior to serving as an AUSA, Phillips served as an Assistant District Attorney with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office where she litigated preliminary hearings, felony and misdemeanor bench trials, jury trials, and various motions before the Municipal and Common Pleas Courts of Philadelphia. Phillips also served as the Senior Director for Career Planning at Temple University Beasley School of Law.

From Having Discussions to Achieving Policy Reform

Moderator: The Honorable Christopher J. Cerski

Angela Bell, Esq.

Angela Bell serves as director of Montgomery County Racial Justice Improvement Task Force and Montgomery County Disparate Minority Contact Coordinator and will discuss racial justice initiatives. First, the discussion will explain how policy changes and restricting of a juvenile diversion program resulted in lowering the arrest rate of Black juveniles. The project was a partnership between Racial Justice Improvement Task Force and the American Bar Association. Second, Bell will explain how organizations can involve the community to generate initiates for achieving social and racial justice reforms.  

Bell received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Kent State University in 1989 and her Juris Doctorate degree from Duquesne University School of Law in 1992. She began her legal career as a public interest attorney with Lehigh Valley Legal Services, providing legal services to low-income families and continues to focus on consumer and public interest legal issues.  Bell is also currently employed as the Community Mobilizer for Communities That Care, in Cheltenham, Pa. and is responsible the implementation and evaluation of national model substance abuse prevention programs.

Bell also currently serves as the Montgomery County, Pa., Disproportionate Minority Contact Coordinator. As the coordinator of the Montgomery County DMC Community and Strategic Planning Project (CASP), she is responsible for addressing the five phases necessary to satisfy the DMC core strategy and developing a DMC-Reduction Plan. Bell was awarded a 2013 Racial Justice Improvement Project grant by the American Bar Association. As the Executive Site Director, Bell is responsible for facilitating the racial justice improvement project task force focused on addressing policy within the criminal justice system that contributes to the racially disparate impact and the overrepresentation of minority youth in the criminal justice system. 

Andrew Christy, Esq., American Civil Liberties Union—Pennsylvania

Andrew Christy is an attorney at the ACLU of Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center, and his undergraduate degree is in political science and women’s studies from the University of Delaware. After law school, Andrew had two judicial clerkships and a fellowship at a nonprofit focusing on mental health law before joining the ACLU of Pennsylvania in 2016. His work focuses on the financial consequences of the criminal justice system.    

Deputy Chief Kelly Warner, Abington Police Department.

The Department will explain its philosophy of community policing and implementing various community engagement strategies.  Explain why such programs are important and how they are initiated. Specifically, the Department will highlight its very successful Police Athletic League, community based youth aid panels, and additional programs.