PEORIA — A visit to a museum in Montgomery, Ala., has caused a career police officer to rethink the entire underlying theory of law enforcement.

Dan Duncan, who has served for more than two decades with the Peoria Police Department, recently visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration. What he saw and he experienced changed him.

"It changed my whole perceptiion of law enforcement," he said recently. "Almost everything we do in law enforcement is tied back to slavery."

On Thursday, Duncan, local writers Sherry Cannon and Pam Adams and Illinois Central College professor Anthony White will participate in a panel discussion moderated by the Rev. Marvin Hightower, the head of the local chapter of the NAACP. The forum, titled "The Ongoing Legacy of Racism and Its Impact on Peoria," is free and will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at ICC's Peoria campus in Arbor Hall, Room 111.

The event is sponsored by the Peoria NAACP and the Journalism Diversity Fund, created with assistance from a free monthly newspaper, the Community Word, which also published an eight-page special section on Cannon and Adams' visit to the museum and the memorial. The forum is hosted by Illinois Central College.

Adams, a former Journal Star reporter and columnist, said "the idea of the forum was to compare some of the public's notions about what lynching is and compare it to what the history is and to see the connections between the death penalty and mass incarceration."

Adams and Duncan both see the roots of mass incarceration in the nation's history, particularly after the Civil War. Duncan said he got emotional while at the museum and the memorial, which recounts more than 4,000 documented lynchings in the United States. He admits there are some people who need to be jailed, but not all.

"Yes, some do need to go off to jail, but there are others who could have used resources and help. They are a product of their environment, what they are around and what they can see. We need to be serving the community, not just with handcuffs but with job applications."