When it comes to training on topics like diversity for the Georgetown Police Department, Police Chief Mike Bosse says conversations with his officers and doing a weekly “temperature check” of the organization is the best training.
This year the governor has mandated eight-hours of diversity training, Bosse said. That training is through an online program.
In addition to the mandatory training, the police department uses another application to expand on the training.
“We use what is called the Bridge App, which is a program through the Kentucky League of Cities where our guys train online,” he said. “Specific classes that our insurance company puts together, that helps us reduce our liability. Some of those classes touch on diversity issues, and public relations and those kinds of things.”
Training through the Bridge App is documented and can be easily accessed to see how much training an officer has completed, Bosse said.
Bosse recognizes there are chances for implicit bias to creep in, that’s why he says a “temperature check” is important.
“I think we always have to be on guard. All of us. All the time. About our own implicit biases,” he said. “We all have implicit bias that we — we have all of these thousands of bits of information that come at us all the time. Every day. Every minute of the day. We don’t always have the ability to filter out that information. And so, we can develop implicit biases about individuals, or circumstances or, you know, just everyday life. And It happens naturally. It happens naturally because there are so many pieces of information coming at us. So, we have to check ourselves.”
In order to put those biases aside and put training into action, Bosse brings up a few points.
“Patience, first of all,” Bosse said. “I think, one, we all have to self-assess. All of us have to self-assess where we are. And that is part of the training. The actual application requires patience. Conversation helps. Getting to know people helps.”
Conversations have to happen in a place where everyone is comfortable and feels like they can talk, he said.
In order to have a diverse group of officers that represent the community they serve, Bosse says the city has to pay them. In the past couple of months two officers have left the agency because of lack of pay, he said.
“The city of Georgetown, if you want to attract a diverse group of police officers, you better be able to pay them,” Bosse said. “And one of our challenges is to replicate the population that we work in. So, when we lose — for an agency this size — when we lose two of our African-American officers in 60 days due to pay, which is a correctable problem, it falls back on the community. Say, ‘well, what is it that you want, community?’ If you really want to make a difference, community, and you want to speak, well, that’s something you can correct.”
On top of lack of pay, it can also be difficult finding the right personality to fit an officer in an agency, Bosse said.
“The window for the personality to be a police officer is not very big,” he said. “I’ve got to find somebody that’s sensitive enough to deal with a victim that has just been through a traumatic event and that person really feel that, that person — that individual that’s helping them — cares. And a half-an-hour later stand up to a 300-pound drunk who is getting ready to smash somebody’s face in, and not run away. That’s a small window of personalities that can fit that mold.”
There has also been an added stigma of what may come with November, but Bosse says he does not police on politics.
“A young man said something last night that I found interesting,” he said. “In his assessment of policing, he throws in, ‘and it’s going to get worse as November gets closer.’ I’m not sure what policing has to do with November. But someone has placed policing in the middle of this election in November and that has put us in a very unique position, that somehow policing has to do with what’s going to happen in November. Because, I don’t police according to who’s the president of the United States. We police based on the Constitution of the United States. That’s what regulates police authority. I think there are some real misunderstandings about what November means. And in some ways, we police have been put in the middle of this wacky political contest that’s occurring right now. It’s not fair.”
For Bosse, his officer’s health is of importance in order to serve the community.
“Keeping (officers) mentally healthy and self-assessing is one of our primary goals,” Bosse said.
Bosse hopes conversations continue on topics of diversity and is meeting with people in the community to make sure officers are connected.
The department is currently developing a simulation program for young people that will provide insight into the quick decisions of an officer.
“Our circumstance is a little bit different because of the authority to stop an individual in a free society,” he said. “We have to be more open to the line of questioning because we have that authority, as opposed to somebody who doesn’t have that authority. In that sense, we can’t get our feelings hurt as easily as a regular person because we’ve been given a huge authority to be able to stop somebody in a free society.”
James Scogin can be reached at email@example.com.