Police cadets in one city are spending their Valentine’s Day undergoing training in one of a kind racial healing circles.
The Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Police Officer Training Academy has teamed up with the Kalamazoo Community Foundation for an initiative called Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (THRT) Kalamazoo. Tensions have risen between the black and brown community and law enforcement in recent years.
According to The Washington Post, police shootings have risen from 992 in 2018 to 1,004 in 2019. The publication found that black people are three times more likely to be shot by police over their white counterparts with 21 percent of those black people being unarmed.
In light of these staggering statistics, people like Victor Ledbetter, the director of Kalamazoo Valley’s Law Enforcement Training Center, knew something had to change in the way officers police their communities.
“The world is seriously divided. This training creates a safe space where people of color, community members and cadets can have open dialogue together,” he said in a statement obtained by Nu Origins. “As a black man with more than 25 years of experience working in law enforcement, I am in a unique position because I see issues from both sides – as a black man and as an officer. I want to ensure that Kalamazoo Valley cadets have a well-rounded understanding of humanity when they are working in the field.”
That’s where the THRT event, Expanding our Horizons: A Cultural Awareness Experience to cadets in the 89th academy comes into play. At the day long training that takes place from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., 80 diverse community members will meet with 17 cadets and break into Racial Healing Circles.
Within those circles, each person will listen to other perspectives and experiences based on specific talking points facilitated by trained practitioners. Among the 17 cadets, there is one white woman, one Native American woman, one African American man, one Asian man and 13 white men.
The community members range in age from 19 to 77, including professionals and people who have had negative experiences with law enforcement. The program has been developed by retired Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Captain Stacey Randolph and is now a permanent part of the police training academy curriculum.
The goal of the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (THRT) Kalamazoo initiative is to advance racial equity and healing in the U.S., according to its website. After participants take part in the healing circles created by THRT, people also get a history lesson about how communities were shaped throughout the U.S. and also examine events, laws and policies.
Following the healing circles, everyone participates in a history lesson that focuses on how communities were shaped throughout the nation – in facilitation partnership with Bronson Community Health, Equity and Inclusion staff – that examine events, laws and policies, from an equity perspective.
Ledbetter insists that the training has done wonders for the way police cadets are relating to the community that they plan to serve.
“The experience has been so powerful,” Ledbetter said “People’s eyes have really been opened to the need to treat people with dignity, respect and empathy. When done properly, there is a nobility and honor in protecting and serving as a police officer.”