District Judge Comes to DSU


On Sept., 20, Delta State University featured Judge Gustavo Gelpi in the Colloquia Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series. His lecture was called “Police Reform through the Eyes of a United States District Judge.”

Gelpi began with the history of police reform, which began in the early 1990s after the Rodney King incident in Los Angeles, Calif. The hearings from the King case was proof the federal government limited capacity to address civil rights violations by law enforcement individuals. This particular case led to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.

In his article on police reform, Gelpi gave steps on how he approached his police reform case assigned randomly to him. He shared his personal experiences residing as a judge in one of his police reform cases that he had been working on for four years.

The subjects contained in the police reform agreements for Gelpi’s case included: investigation of civilian administrative complaints and discipline, recruitment, selection, and hiring as well as many others.

Gelpi believed all police departments, such as Ferguson Police Department, should follow the police reform agreements that the Puerto Rico Police Department followed. He reported the police progress was positive and slowly improving in numerous areas.

He also declared that giving the chief of police and other officers involved in the areas of the reform with the opportunity to engage in a colloquy of the court. Instead of having attorneys summarize the statue of matters which made a whole world of difference.

Similar to Gelpi, Tamara Jones believed that including police officers and the community in these issues will help solve tensions and problems between them. “If the police department tries to solve these problems on their own, it will on cause more rage and turmoil in the city,” Jones said. “Without the citizens involved, how would they know what to do?”

According to Gelpi, regardless who wins the presidential election, we will see many more police reform cases across the nation. He stated that the path to complete police reform in any jurisdiction within our nation is long, but like every journey, it begins with a single step.

Gelpi is a judge of the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. He was appointed by George W. Bush in 2006 and was the youngest judge at the time of his appointment with him being 40 years old.