- Associated Press - Friday, October 2, 2015

GARY, Ind. (AP) - A federal pilot program aimed at improving ties between law enforcement and communities, and curbing racial bias is moving ahead in Gary, one of six U.S. cities taking part in the initiative.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Thursday she hopes the three-year program will help residents in her struggling northwestern Indiana city feel closer to the police, “and not view them as kind of a separate entity that imposes on them.”

“They will view them truly as guardians of the community and a group that works with them to really promote safety in the community,” she said Thursday. “I don’t know if the average resident feels that way.”

The National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice is being funded by a $4.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, The (Munster) Times reported (https://bit.ly/1GnJm0a ).

In Gary, the effort will examine attitudes within the police department, review its policies and assist Police Chief Larry McKinley, project director Tracie Keesee said.

McKinley said residents will see more transparency in law enforcement as the initiative moves along.

Keesee said during a Thursday meeting that the team will spend the next three years implementing training and performing research. It will also do community work on procedural justice, implicit bias and reconciliation.

Implicit bias refers to unconscious attitudes or beliefs that can shape how officers act toward different people or groups. Reconciliation involves conversations between law enforcement and communities to address historic grievances, tensions and misconceptions.

Keesee said some of the leading scholars in those two fields are part of the national initiative.

Freeman-Wilson said city officials believe it’s important for residents to be involved in public safety issues and that they trust the police. She said officers really are there to serve the community.

The other cities in the program are Birmingham, Alabama; Fort Worth, Texas; Minneapolis; Pittsburgh; and Stockton, California.

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Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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