Across the country we’ve seen communities and police officers standing in the streets, with protests and controversy.
The Starkville police department is hoping some training will prevent those scenes in Oktibbeha County.
Officers are learning how to better work with the diverse people they serve.
“I just want to be proactive and avoid some of the stuff that’s going on nationally with police officers and citizens. So, I definitely want to be ahead of the curb,”said Starkville Police Chief Frank Nichols.
Cultural competence, unconscious bias, and trauma were the key points in the two day law enforcement training course lead by Dr. Rany Burnside.
“We’ve seen a lot of incidents going on in the rest of the country, and so I really wanted an opportunity to speak to the officers about that here in Starkville. When you’re not being called into a situation where something has happened,”said Burnside.
During the conference, Starkville officers saw real world scenarios of officer- community interaction and were able to ask Burnside questions.
Nichols says finding out the best way to police the community, should be high every officer’s list of priorities.
“We take it for granted when we hire an officer that once they go through the police academy they are equipped and armed with all the knowledge of different cultures, but they are not. A lot of them haven’t interacted with different cultures. So, I think the burden of proof is on me to educate them,”said Nichols.
Burnside says police need the residents, as much as those people need them when a crime happens.
“One of the things I try to impart to the officers is that community is an important part of policing. The community is going to be where you get the information from. There will be crimes, crimes are going to happen. If you have an community you’ve developed partnerships and relationships with that community is going to help you solve those crimes but also help you to prevent crimes. A community that works with it’s police force sends a message to criminals that we aren’t going to tolerate crime in our communities,”said Burnside.
SPD believes constantly improving its public relations skills is just as important as driving a patrol car or training to shoot a gun.
This is especially true when you have a diverse population at a university.
” When you work in a college town as an officer you’re dealing with a really diverse population. People from the U.S. and people from other countries and so you have a lot of different cultures coming together a lot of young people coming together and there is a greater likelihood for conflict in those situations”>
The Cultural competence training was mandatory for officers and department staff.