As a retired law-enforcement officer with over 26 years of experience, I know that law enforcement officers must make split second decisions that frequently can save lives. These decisions can also endanger lives. With so much at stake, it is important that our officers on the street have robust training to help them make these split second decisions and that communities have full faith and trust in the officers tasked with keeping our communities safe.
As a member of Nebraska’s Racial Profiling Advisory Committee and ACLU of Nebraska’s immediate past president, I’ve seen the same disturbing racial profiling numbers year after year showing that there are reasons to be concerned about law enforcement practices in Omaha and around the state. People of color are being pulled over, searched and arrested at an alarmingly disproportionate rate.
Even the perception of bias can have grave consequences for public safety. Without trust, those who are victims or witnesses of crime are less likely to make a report or cooperate with an investigation. We are all safer when everyone feels like they can call law enforcement and when we can all expect to be treated fairly and respectfully. Bias can also allow those who might be seen as less likely to commit a crime to go without proper investigation.
The law enforcement agencies who sent officers to the Fair and Impartial Policing Training in July have taken a great step towards building trust. This training has been used nationally to help law enforcement work through potential bias that may be influencing their policing. Current and former law enforcement officers as well as researchers who study bias in law enforcement have developed the training.
The ACLU as well as the Racial Profiling Advisory Committee has worked with the Nebraska Crime Commission to recommend such trainings. I applaud the officers who attended, their departments and the Law Enforcement Training Center in Grand Island for hosting this training. It is my hope that this training will take place again and that more departments will send officers or that individual departments will bring the training to their community. These trainings will be enhanced when street supervisors are vigilant in ensuring that the recommendations from the training and related department policies are being followed by all officers.
Being transparent and accountable is not going to be accomplished through one training. However, this training demonstrates a willingness on the part of the departments who attended to grow and work towards building bridges with communities of color.