SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – In a day and age when there can be a lack of trust and even fear among law enforcement agencies and communities they serve, Chatham County Police say they are making an effort to get out in front of the issue.
Friday, Chatham County officers and some community members took part in a diversity and inclusion training course.
“I think I just want to get to know some of them and who they are you know get to know them more than just the badge and the gun and taser but to know them behind the badge,” said Candace Hardnett who is a pastor and community activist.
Hardnett spent the day with a number of people, including Officer Heath Wynn.
“I think we all have biases but the most important thing is just to be aware of it and when you’re policing try to be as least biased as possible,” Wynn told us.
“They (the trainers) have talked about some different things that you know might insult other cultures, different ways to deal with things, how we talk, our mannerisms, our body language — just stuff that might upset people and ways to deal with things in the most peaceful and best way that we possibly can,” Wynn added.
Chatham County Police Chief Jeff Hadley said the training from the U.S. Department of Justice is an effort to establish a better relationship with the community.
“Hopefully…we all walk out of here looking at each other differently, humanizing each other,” Hadley said.
The chief said the goal is to have officers understand relationships and that they are not doing this after some critical incident but prior to something happening.
“We are just here to talk to listen and to understand where someone’s coming from, their expectations on both sides of the equation,” said Hadley. “And when you have that healthy relationship and trouble comes you can get through that responsibly and be better off for it as you go forward. You can’t start relating in crisis.”
Hardnett agrees and said she hopes the training will ultimately be valuable for everyone.
“I think it builds trust I think it builds the community we’re all part of this community, so I think it does a good job of building the trust of the people,” she said. “You know, the bottom line is if I trust the police officers to do their job, and they trust me as a citizen to help them do their job then we’re going to be able to make Savannah a better city overall.”
Police recognize some in the community have fears and concerns not just about criminals but about them.
“It’s not anything that we don’t know about,” said Wynn. “But it’s our job to kind of dispel that.”