Commentary: Community relations key for Cheswold police

During the last year and in the future, the Cheswold Police Department has been looking into better ways to teach educate officers on the diverse nature of policing within our community and on our roadways.

As officers, we reach people and contact them on various levels from community events to traffic stops and calls for emergency services. Sometimes we may interact with 30 or more people per day.

Unfortunately, for many, a lot of those interactions are negative on the part of the community. No one likes to see the flashing red and blues in their windows and an officer walking up to their vehicle. Most of the time the reason an officer is walking up to your home it is not for a good reason. We have to assume that for most of the population their interaction with police officers has been negative and that is what they see when any uniform arrives.

Christopher Workman

It is not personal, it’s blue. As an officer we often have no idea what experiences that the person we are speaking with has had with police officers in the past. Their negativity and anger may just be a knee-jerk reaction to the color of your uniform, the shining of your badge or simply the red and blues reflecting off of their rear view mirror.

We have all seen those videos of a few officers making a bad decision, which has made it harder for good police officers to protect and serve their communities, because they are required to once again gain the trust of the individual as themselves and remove the tarnish from the badge. The way we treat people can change that view. Whatever positive impression we can leave on them as an individual is what we are trying to accomplish, one person at a time.

Officers have a responsibility and requirement to train in CPR, firearms and other technical aspects of their jobs, but we must also inform and educate our officers to treat everyone with the respect and dignity they deserve as human beings.

In order to have a better understanding of how to better interact and treat people with dignity and respect we began our journey in March of 2018 when we partnered with the Anti-Defamation League to present a class on Managing Implicit Bias for Law Enforcement.

This was a class which was attended by officers from across the state, from different departments, different races, genders, and religions etc, who shared experiences and reactions to scenario-based incidents and how they would have handled a situation, why and what they thought and seeing how their biases, as little or extreme as they may be, affect their daily decisions both on and off the job.

These officers were able to interact with their peers and get into spirited discussions regarding these biases. In the end, learning to recognize and understand that those biases exist in everyone and to acknowledge that we have them as individuals is crucial, and we believe the first step in providing fair and equal policing within our community.

To continue this initiative, this year, the officers of the Cheswold Police Department have completed instruction on de-escalation and minimalizing use of force and will soon begin a course entitled, “LGBT Awareness for Law Enforcement,” made available through Coming Out From Behind the Badge. This class will educate officers about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and how they can better understand and serve this segment of our community, while also helping them to understand their terminology, ideology and how hate crimes and domestic violence impact the LGBTQ+ community.

There is no two-, four- or eight-hour course that will make our officers experts overnight, but we do know that by utilizing this training and giving them some insight into the struggles and issues that our diverse communities deal with each and every day, can help our officers to serve everyone we encounter with the professionalism, dignity and respect they expect from law enforcement professionals.

We continue to look for quality training and programs that will assist us in becoming a better police department and are dedicated to protecting and serving those who travel through, visit and reside in the town of Cheswold.

Christopher Workman is chief of police for the town of Cheswold.

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