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WVU Scholar Spotlight

James Nolan facing forward, wearing glasses. He has shoulder length brown hair and a grey beard and moustache.James Nolan, PhD 
By Leah Thomas

The Research Center on Violence has been very fortunate to have Dr. James (Jim) Nolan as a prominent leader on our research team. Working alongside Dr. DeKeseredy, Dr. Nolan has brought his extensive knowledge of police and public safety from his 13 years as a police officer in Wilmington, Delaware to the research we conduct. Additionally, he is a graduate of the FBI Academy with a focus in hate crimes. Despite never having intentions of entering academia, Nolan began teaching at WVU in 2000 where he is now the chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Because of this extensive experience, he has become a prominent researcher as he primarily focuses on police reform. Nolan states, in an interview, that he became initially interested in neighborhood-police dynamics as an officer which carried into his professional career as a professor.

 Throughout the past 20 years, Dr. Nolan has had a prominent research interest in aspects of policing that he could believe could change for the better. He has done projects surrounding “situational policing” which he describes as “a way of thinking about policing that identifies the desire at the end being the strong community”. His research seeks to identify the best policing strategies for different communities as they may be highly interdependent on the police, highly dependent, or conflicting with the police. 

Supporting the work of the Center, he was involved in our initial research project, recently published, West Virginia Community Quality of Life Survey which had a primary focus on community dynamics in terms of intimate partner violence, stalking, and other crimes around West Virginia. Nolan used his considerable insight from his years as an officer and agent to compile these figures to recommend police reform to local governments. 

Dr. Nolan has a new publication titled Policing in the Age of Reform. Figures and data were taken internationally to complete this book as there is a focus in countries such as France, Hungary, and Switzerland. The book tackles the controversy and sensitivity of policing in this day and age as well as illuminating key faults of police. We recommend this book to those passionate about criminology and police reform.

When asked if he had any advice for undergraduate students, Dr. Nolan recommends that students continue to question everything. He says that, while professors have been teaching the same thing to students every year as if it is set in stone, there is no clear right or wrong way to approach a problem like this. “There is no natural order to things, and faculty and mentors should be challenging these arrangements and say that this is all constructed,” Nolan states in an interview. He advises that graduate students should be comfortable digging into these assumptions that we previously thought were true and challenging them.

The Research Center on Violence would like to thank Dr. Nolan for his continued effort as a member of our executive board. You can learn more about Dr. James Nolan here