It's all about communication. Rockford area police chiefs and sheriffs get together to hear that message. They learned about ways to approach the community members they serve when they're out in the field. Some officer learned by living it.
We're talking about years of distrust between cops and minority residents. Police departments are trying to resolve that. Actually, some cops say they had negative experiences before they wore a badge. 14-year Madison police officer Lester Moore recalls growing up in surroundings that weren't always racially-friendly. That fueled his desire to become the cop who does take the time to sit down and talk with community members.
"We've got a lot of work to do, but I take pleasure in the work because it's for a good reason." -says Moore.
Rockford Park District Police Chief Theo Glover strives for the same thing. He says it's about being approachable by any person.
"I was one of the people who would get out of the squad car and talk to people. I worked at high schools and I would greet kids that I saw were going down the wrong road. I took time to pull them aside to say 'Hey, you've got more potential than that.'"
Officer Moore and other presenters trained Boone County and Winnebago County officers on how to build those key one-on-one relationships.
"People need to get out of their comfort zones and have experiences with other people who aren't like them. I think a lot of times once you do that you start to realize that we are a lot more alike than we really know." -Moore adds.
Overcoming racial bias is something Madison's police department has worked on in the past. They say having cops in neighborhoods and schools makes a difference.
Chief Glover will be educating his officers during roll call on how to patrol their territories.
"When we go out in the parks, people are there to have a good time, but we have to look at that as they're not there acting out of character, they're having a good time, so when we do approach them we should approach them in that manner." -says Glover.
Friday's training marked the first time Moore and other Madison officers spoke in front of cops outside of Dane County. Their next training session, "Real Talk," will be in Madison on September 21st.
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