Black and Blue: Training Designed to Bridge Communities of Color and Police

Style Magazine Newswire | 2/11/2020, 11:28 a.m.

In an effort to strengthen the relationships between law enforcement and communities of color, Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Police Officer Training Academy is offering a unique training program, Expanding our Horizons: A Cultural Awareness Experience to cadets in the 89th academy. The training takes place at the college’s Law Enforcement Training Center, 7107 Elm Valley Drive in Kalamazoo, on Friday, Feb. 14 from 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Kalamazoo Valley is the only police academy in the state to offer this type of training.

“The world is seriously divided,” Director of Kalamazoo Valley’s Law Enforcement Training Center Victor Ledbetter said. “This training creates a safe space where people of color, community members and cadets can have open dialogue together.”

During the day-long exercise, the 17 cadets who make up the 16-week academy are divided up into six Racial Healing Circles with members of the local community. The cadets include one white female, one Native American female, one African American male, one Asian male and 13 white men. The 80 diverse community members - including professionals and those who had their own run-ins with law enforcement - range in age from 19 to 77.

The circles focus on listening and being open to others’ perspectives and experiences based on talking points initiated by practitioners from Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (THRT) Kalamazoo, a comprehensive, national and community-based process that focuses on advancing racial equity and racial healing in the United States.

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 added the training program, developed by retired Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Captain Stacey Randolph, to the academy when he took over the program in 2018.

“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.”

The training is now a permanent part of the academy curriculum.

“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,” he said. “I want to ensure that Kalamazoo Valley cadets have a well-rounded understanding of humanity when they are working in the field. When done properly, there is a nobility and honor in protecting and serving as a police officer.”