Police are often in the spotlight for their relations with the community. And to make interactions positive, SUNY police are being trained on "fair and impartial policing." Alana LaFlore explains more about the new program.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Everyone has their biases. But trainers say it's all about examining them with a critical lens.
"We're telling them you're not a bad person because you have them," said JoAnn Johnson, a lieutenant colonel with the Illinois State Police. "Because everyone does."
Twenty-five SUNY police officers are learning how to overcome those implicit biases -- and not let them affect their work. It's called "Fair and Impartial Training," and it's gaining popularity across the country.
"We're just going to teach them how to recognize them and not police with the bias," said Johnson.
"You can never know too much, you can never practice too much, when you get into what people call the softer side of policing," said Paul Berger, the commissioner of the NYS University Police. "It's those communication and people skills that are really most critically important."
A large part of the curriculum is spent on explaining the science of bias. Training also involves watching videos to spark discussions, role playing and teach backs.
"There's a fear of the unknown," said Johnson. "We ask our students what comes to mind when you see this image of this homeless person. And then we ask them to speak about that. So we know that you're not alone when you say dirty or lazy or mental health issue. Those may well be true, but it doesn't mean those people should be treated any less or given any less police service because of that."
Tracy Collins, a captain at SUNY Upstate Medical University, will spend two and a half days in training. Once the program is done, she and her peers will go on to train fellow officers on their respective campuses.
"Every little bit of training that we have, every little but of sensitivity and and compassion that we can bring into a situation does nothing but help interact with them and the service that we provide," said Collins.
And with so much attention on police and community relations, trainees say the program couldn't have come at a better time.