Diversity Training at the Bakersfield Police Department
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
Californiaís population is diverse. Bakersfield, which is the seat of Kern County, has a metropolitan population of 256,270, with a demographic breakdown of 64 percent Caucasian, 26 percent Hispanic, 7 percent Black, 2 percent Asian and 1 percent other. With an ever growing minority population, the City of Bakersfield recognizes the need to train city employees to better understand and handle the problems and needs of the minority population.
When most people think of local government, they automatically think of the police department. Because the police department is perhaps the most visible and scrutinized branch of local government, the Bakersfield Police Department has implemented cultural awareness and diversity training for its employees. The mission statement of the Police Department is as follows:
The Bakersfield Police Department is dedicated to the delivery of qualityprofessional service in all activities that promote community safety, security,and public trust.
In order to accomplish this mission, the City of Bakersfield and the Bakersfield Police Department have developed new training along with utilizing existing available resources.
Sworn officers are required to undergo such training in the Academy and on an ongoing basis by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). Over the past two years, Academy students have attended a one day seminar at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. This seminar includes discussion with former Neo-Nazi gang members and Holocaust survivors as well as discussion on the dynamics of racism, stereotyping and prejudice in the effective handling of certain situations. The museum is open to any law enforcement officer, not just Academy students.
The Bakersfield Police Department also presents cultural awareness training during in-house advanced officer schools. This training is not sensitivity training nor is it designed to get the officer to adopt the characteristics of other cultures, rather it helps the officer gain an understanding of the differences between cultures.
Cooperation and open communication between the police and the community is essential to meet the needs of both. By presenting officers with information regarding different cultures and races we build community support and public trust by creating a positive relationship.
In the past year we have implemented diversity training for civilian employees of the Police Department. Although these employees are not law enforcement officers, they are viewed as such by the public simply because of their place of employment. The public can be as emotional and excited with the civilian employee as they are with officers and the importance of being able to handle various peoples effectively and compassionately can not be overstated. This training was two hours and was provided by a sergeant from our Department who has received numerous hours of training in cultural awareness instruction and has served as an Academy instructor for several years.
Civilian employees are also given customer service training. This training is to make the employee aware that the customer may be the public, a fellow employee, an officer, and even a supervisor. If respect and courtesy are practiced within the organization it will naturally extend to the public. Although this does not directly relate to cultural, racial or lifestyle diversity, treating people in a polite and courteous manner will undoubtedly promote a better relationship with the public and in the workplace. Robin Paggi, Human Resources Technician for the city of Bakersfield, concludes, "Itís difficult to provide good customer service at all times. However, providing good customer service makes your job easier, it helps promote a positive image for the police department and, ultimately, itís your job." Plans are underway to make this training available on a monthly basis and open to sworn personnel as well.
2. How is the program financed?
The aforementioned programs are virtually cost-free. Sworn personnel are covered by reimbursement plans set up by POST. The trip to the Museum of Tolerance also provides training to meet the requirements of the Basic Academy in the learning domain concerning cultural diversity. Civilian personnel are scheduled for training during duty hours in a manner that allows for coverage of their positions by co-workers, thereby eliminating the need for overtime expenditures. The instructors are employees of the city, therefore no fees were involved.
3. How is the community involved in the program, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?
Benefits of cultural awareness training are felt by the Police Department, the community, and the individual officer. The Department enjoys a positive impact on the image of law enforcement, a reduction in the number of complaints regarding a lack of courtesy, and a reduction of personal and agency exposure to claims and litigation. The community gets better service, reduced tension between law enforcement and specific cultural groups, and ensured compliance with the letter and spirit of the law. The officer will benefit from the training through increased community support that enhances officer safety, a greater sense of ethical satisfaction, and the ability to communicate and gather information from the public is enhanced.
At the completion of the first training, the civilian employee is requested to complete an evaluation on the course content as well as discuss the class with the instructor. The evaluations indicated the cultural awareness training was well received. Employees wrote they learned from discussion not only with the instructor, but with their peers as well. This topic is not one that is generally discussed during a coffee break so employees gleaned a great deal of information from each other during the class.
The customer service class was initially met with skepticism. Police employees generally view themselves as adversaries of the public in general and vice versa. The training presented ideas which could ultimately make their jobs easier without causing much change in their work habits. The adage that "you can draw more flies with honey..." applies to customer service. We found very few employees who like to make their job more difficult. The evaluations at the end of the class indicated the training was useful and served as a reminder to treat people the way you like to be treated. The evaluations included recommendations that both classes be extended in length.
4. What specific advice do you have for mayors interested in replicating a program such as yours?
Obviously, what has been done in Bakersfield is neither high-tech nor costly. To create a program such as this takes a manager willing to set aside the time for the training and locate the in-house personnel who are qualified to instruct in their areas of expertise.
For more information, please contact:
Jay Borton, Detective
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352