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Missouri police examine history to build stronger communities

Recruits to learn history of policing minority communities
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Posted at 8:04 PM, Jan 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-16 23:52:17-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — All Missouri police officer recruits now are required to take a new class focused on connecting with minority communities.

The corridors at the Kansas City Regional Police Academy provide a glimpse of law enforcement over the decades. Future officers will soon take a closer look at some of that history.

To help understand those who they protect and serve recruits spend 11 hours in a cultural diversity class.

"Where we've already been talking about different minorities in our community, and some of the misperceptions that citizens may have of law enforcement and vice versa," KCPD Capt. Brian Bartch, one of the leaders at the academy, said.

The Peace Officer Standards and Training commission is developing an additional two-hour course aimed at teaching recruits the history of policing in minority communities.

"When we really examine it, we can see that some of these things go all the way back to slave codes, right?" Nimrod Chapel Jr., president of the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP, said. "The idea that we need law enforcement to keep in check a certain portion of the population--we've got to get out of that mindset."

The issue became a flashpoint this past summer leading to protests on the Country Club Plaza and across the country.

The Missouri NAACP said it’s hard to imagine how one course could change decades of what they see as systemic racism in police departments but believe it's a step in the right direction.

"Until we have a deeper appreciation for how some of the ways that policing in our communities, in Black and brown communities, has been done, and the views and cultural perspectives on those, until we appreciate that and do something to address it--it's going to take that kind of analysis and thoughtful introspection from the officers going through the academy in these courses to have a real effect," Chapel said.

The class will be taught at all 20 Missouri police academies within six months of being finalized.

"It's just given us different mechanisms to sort of slow things down, hit the pause button, have these discussions," Bartch said.