CORAL SPRINGS, FL - I wouldn’t say that teaching diversity issues to police officers is like trying to teach a wild mustang to let you get on its back. But with some, it isn’t far off.
Police officers, like cowboys, will practice endlessly the tasks that make them better at what they do, or what they perceive will make them better at what they do.
Physical training, self-defense, submission holds, even the sheet that holds all the calls and turns them into numbers, is a huge amount to know, and know so well that it is on the tip of their tongues.
Given that, and offering of a new training set, is not met with glee. Diversity training, which for most officers, seems as useful as an empty gun, is not something most look forward to. Once it became state-mandated, it became hated.
Having been asked by the state to edit and review their curriculum, I quickly realized that this was so text-bookish, so boring that asking officers to deal with 18 hours of it (now eight) was asking for trouble and finding failure. How was I going to do this?
Understand, there are probably as many diversity trainers as Carter has liver pills. Some are cops, some are social workers or psychologists; some are good, some so-so, some awful. Some charge hundreds of dollars and some thousands, upwards of ten thousand. None of that means anything to the men and women who have to occupy the chairs. I came up with a model that used the bulk of the curriculum; it would be a presentation that would make it work—or not.
My training departed widely from others in two ways. The first was food. I canceled the lunch hour the officers were entitled to, replacing it with an ethnic meal—Cuban, Haitian, Jewish. With the meal came a chat from a member of that group explaining the why's and wherefores of the food.
The other was finding diversity on tape done by comedians. To drive points home about stereotypes, I used one tape by a Mexican professor from the University of California who was so hysterically funny he could have taken the lecture on the road. Bill Cosby did one for the Anti-Defamation League that was magnificent. Paul Rodriguez, the Mexican comic had one, and of course the late great Richard Pryor. When people are laughing so hard, they’re wondering if they’ll make it to the bathroom, they are not thinking how odious it is being taught diversity training.
The point is this. Like mustangs, cops can be trained. Not everyone, not all equally. In today’s climate, with Black Lives Matter, with murders, or, so they seem, committed by cops against black men (and women), and with community pressure, the command staffs of law enforcement know this has to be done.
The good news is that it will be. The prayer is that it will be done well.
Read William A. Gralnick’s recent columns for TAPinto Coral Springs:
A resident of South Florida for more than 30 years, Bill Gralnick has written more than 900 op-eds and columns for newspapers around the country, including columns for the Brooklyn Eagle.
His latest book, found on Amazon.com, Kindle or paperback, is the coming-of-age memoir, “The War of the Itchy Balls and Other Tales from Brooklyn.”
His writings can be found on his website: williamgralnickauthor.com
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