Training programs focus on police, community relations

CHICAGO (WLS) -- What happened in Ferguson, Mo., sparked a series of reactions nationwide, including a discussion of race relations and our relationship with police officers.

University of Chicago Institute of Politics sponsored "Lessons from Ferguson," a meeting Wednesday to discuss how to better improve relations between police and community.

"How do we provide infrastructure where there can, in fact, be more of an opportunity for the community to feel empowered to hold the police accountable?" said Professor Cathy Cohen, University of Chicago political scientist.

"People have biases whether they realize it or not, it doesn't mean that they're overtly racist, but they have these biases that exist," said Associate Professor Andrew Papachristos, Yale University sociologist. "One of the things we also know is that we can actually train people around biases."

Charlene Carruthers is the national director of Black Youth Project 100, based in Chicago.

"Our relationship is tenuis," Carruthers said.

Carruthers would like many changes to address concerns, especially in communities of color.

"People should be able to live with dignity, and all too often interactions with police officers, the dignity of an individual is erased," Carruthers said.

At the Chicago Police Academy, recruits and veterans of Chicago streets attend a relatively new training program aimed at improving community relations.

"The attitude of that police officer will determine the outcome," said Lt. Jacqueline Ellison, Chicago police.

Instructor and Officer Dina Patterson admits there was push-back at first, but they are trying to help officers see how their contact with the community impacts CPD and the image of police officers everywhere.

"They are kind of seeing, 'Oh it is the way I see things, the way I'm thinking, it is that cynical side of me,'" Patterson said. "It breaks down that wall."

Some officers we spoke with emphasize their many positive interactions they hope will get more attention.

"The way I gage somebody is the same way I would want to be treated," said Officer Michael Jankovic.

"When you mend that broken trust, then you'll have the community come out and work with you," said Sgt. Elise Padilla.

CPD is developing another training program that is more interactive.

While Chicago police sponsor this program, officers from other states and other countries participate.

As for other things that can be done to mend relations, some would like to see more Independent Police Review Authority and more police involvement in the community, not just when called to an emergency.
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