By Hamzat Sani, Special to the AFRO
Flanked by the cadets of the Metro Police Department (MPD) Academy, Mayor Bowser announced a first-of-its-kind partnership between the University of the District of Columbia Community College (UDC-CC), the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and MPD. UDC professors will teach all sworn and civilian member of the MPD a self-developed curriculum providing insight into the Black experience and the history of the District’s neighborhoods. The Smithsonian Institution will provide the blueprint for the course.
“This partnership is a tremendous opportunity for our community and one small but important way we can provide our officers at MPD with the tools and knowledge they need to be successful,” Bowser said. Official training began for the entire staff in January 2018 but members of MPD’s Command Staff have been touring NMAAHC since June 2017.
With the NMAAHC in the backdrop, MPD Chief of Police Peter Newsham acknowledged the history of racialized animosity between the Black community and local police; a history well-documented in the museum’s exhibits.
This training is an attempt to change that history. “The staff of the Metropolitan Police Department will gain detailed knowledge of the local community with historical context which will strengthen service for residents and visitors,” Newsham said.
The new partnership builds on the Bowser’s stated commitment to building trust between law enforcement and the community. Since 2017, MPD has focused its community policing efforts on a sector policing model to improve accountability and performance amongst the ranks.
The move to innovate the MPD’s training program comes at a time when police departments nationwide grapple with institutional racial bias found across many police forces.
Bowser punctuated the importance of the training program, “When residents and officers trust each other and understand each other, we are all safer,” she said.