EDITORIAL: Cops Learn About Being Black in D.C.

Blacks are more often than not the victims of police violence as compared to any other group of people in the U.S. Black men and boys rank the highest with Black women and girls, unfortunately, keeping pace just a few steps behind. Studies confirm a disparity in the use of force by police that too often results in the death of a Black person. And, the cause of this disparity is leading law enforcement agencies to seek effective ways to reduce what is characterized as “implicit bias” against African Americans and other minorities in cities across the U.S.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has joined a movement slowly spreading into police districts around the country in efforts to determine what can be done to reduce implicit bias. What is it that causes such a great degree of tension in the interaction between the police and Black people; what can be done to end the misunderstandings and mistrust that unarguably exists?

On a local level, Bowser, while in partnership with other U.S. city leaders, says her program has been crafted with the goal of better sensitizing local law enforcement to the Black experience in D.C. Sworn and civilian members of the Metropolitan Police Department will undergo expanded training provided by professors from the University of the District of Columbia Community College and historians at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The primary goals include ending implicit bias and raising cultural sensitivity between law enforcement and minority communities. Bowser said in a released statement, “This is a first-of-its-kind program that provides all sworn and civilian members with an insight toward the African-American experience in the District, as well as educates them on the history of the neighborhoods that MPD serves.”

We have not been privy to all of the details of the program, but we believe that raising the consciousness level of officers about the Black experience is a good thing. It’s not only good for the police but would make a heck of a difference for those who are policed, especially young people who grow up in this city, as to whether they one day become a police officer or add to the growing number of victims. However, unless our youth, particularly a majority of those who have been taught very little about their own history and culture, are similarly educated, the mayor’s program may result in a one-sided solution that limits the desired results.

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