Law enforcement from Baltimore, Ferguson and Sanford gathered in North Florida this week for a conference on community policing. Following the high profile killings in those cities, some departments are transforming their officer training.
Captain Tony Raimondo was one of the first on the scene when George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin in February 2012. Now he’s revamping the way Sanford police address prejudice.
“I have never witnessed a man or woman put his or her gear on and say ‘I’m going to go police population X tonight’. That’s not the way we do it. Except, being exposed to the science in the manner that I have been now, I understand that I policed in a biased manner previously,” he said.
Researchers say that relatively few people act on overt racism. But everyone has implicit biases that steer their thoughts and actions subconsciously. Raimondo says the challenge is to recognize and overcome those prejudices.
“One of the ways that we mitigate that bias is through contact theory, that is putting our police officers in proximity to the public in positive environments. Positive, non-enforcement related things. Because what that does is it exposes our officers to counter-stereotyping,” he said.
Other departments across the state are adopting this training, and re-examining the way they police. The conference brought together hundreds of local, state and federal officers to discuss public trust and police legitimacy.