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Local police get training on bias awareness

Police training (Photo: RJ Burnette)

DANVILLE, Va. (WSET)- Law enforcement officers from across our region were in a course focusing on policing that's safe and fair at Institute for Advanced Learning and Research. It was police training that dug deep into interactions with police and the community.

The course was organized by the Virginia Attorney General's Office and will finish up Friday.

With 25 years of service under her belt and countless hours of training, Officer Coretha Gravely with the Martinsville Police Department never turns away from the idea of more training.

"I got hired in 1991 and it's completely different now," Gravely said.

The class focused on safe and impartial policing. The instructor, Lt. Colonel Joann Johnson with Illinois State Police said the use of force, de-escalation and decision making can all be impacted by an officer's bias.

"We can be biased based on socioeconomic status, gender, disability, age," she said. "Our bias happens under the conscious level to the point as an law enforcement officer... as general human beings... we don't even realize we hold them, but the point we make during the training is that we can't police through the those biases."

So how do to officers work on that?

"It's the golden rule," Johnson said.

"Police others in the way you want to be policed," Gravely said. "Everybody is different and everyone is somebody."

Another solution is called contact theory. It's about officers having a presence in a community that goes much further than patrols.

"Certain police departments are doing the running man challenge," Johnson said. "Talking to the citizens, making sure everything is okay, not because I've been called there but because I want to go there. Now people see me not just as a cop but as a human being."

" I'm trying to take back to the police department, especially to the younger recruits, about how to have a rapport with the people in the community," Gravely said.

The officers will go back to their departments and pass along their training to others. In fact, Police all over the state are getting this information. There will be two more courses this year.

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