The organization introduced recruits to various topics, including community expectations of police conduct and views on local and national incidents.
SARASOTA, Fla. — The Sarasota Police Department says a new diversity and inclusion program for new recruits will help improve policing and build community confidence.
The training program is in partnership with the local chapter of the NAACP.
The organization introduced recruits to various topics, including community expectations of police conduct and community perspectives on incidents that made national headlines.
Department heads hope the program will allow officers to “broaden their horizons” and understand the community’s expectations of its law enforcement officers.
Since January, a dozen new police officers from the city of Sarasota have taken this training.
“I grew up where I grew up in the Palmer Ranch area of Sarasota, the conversations I had with my parents about the police, it was always ‘hey, they’re always there to help you . Just comply and do what they say,” said Officer David Knight.
Knight, who is 26, was one of eight new recruits recently sworn in as a city officer. His promotion is the second recruitment promotion to go through the training program.
The Riverview High School graduate said that even with a degree in psychology, he had until now taken for granted different views of law enforcement held by different communities and their experiences of interacting with uniformed officers or armed.
“It opened up to, you know, some people being brought up and being taught ‘hey no, the police can be bad, they might do something bad to you, you have to watch them and watch what they’re doing. ‘ So it gets on their nerves, so when they have an encounter with law enforcement, they get on edge, and sometimes we get nervous, depending on that and sometimes it can make it worse,” said Knight.
The course showed him how to apply critical thinking to the spontaneity of his basic training while keeping communities safe and staying alive for his family.
“Just because you have an interaction with someone who seems tense doesn’t mean they’ve always done something wrong. It makes me think for a second about my actions to say hey, wait a second, what is -what am I doing, what am I describing to the public that maybe I give off a certain vibe that makes someone act a certain way,” he said.
Using real-life cases and re-enactments, the program explores issues of implicit and explicit bias, including racism, stereotyping, and prejudice that can arise during policing.
“So often we don’t acknowledge the biases that we have. We want the officers as well as even the community to understand what their explicit biases are, because just as we work with the SPD, we also want to hold the community accountable as well. to be good partners. It’s a two-way street,” said Trevor Harvey, president of the NAACP, Sarasota.
Several law enforcement incidents across the country involving police brutality, officer-involved shootouts, and corrupt practices by select law enforcement officers or entire department systems have impacted perception, morale and recruiting efforts according to various law enforcement officials and surveillance analyses. . They say programs like this could start to help solve some of these problems and restore community trust.
“The reason we joined the NAACP is that we were trained specifically in officer safety, firearms, driving, to the point where it became second nature to us. This training with the NAACP is so important because in light of what has happened over the past two years with law enforcement, we feel it’s imperative that we work with our communities of color and we’re just not going to handle every situation the same,” Lt. Andrew Combs said.
“Before anything happens in Sarasota, it’s important for us to get ahead of the game so we don’t have a ‘Derek Chauvin’ situation,” Combs said.
“This type of training is essential for Sarasota police officers in the 21st century,” Acting Sarasota Police Chief Rex Troche said in part in a statement. “This training helps broaden an officer’s understanding of our community at the grassroots level, as they learn first-hand from the leaders of the local NAACP.”
January marked the first training opportunity to recruit officers, according to police. The training took place before the recruits were sworn in and began their field training.
The police department and the NAACP are optimistic that the program will expand to more seasoned force officers in the next year.