- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Officers with the Charleston Police Department have started taking part in day-long training sessions on race relations.

The sessions began Monday and are being offered through next week, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported (https://bit.ly/2gXvmF3). By that time, organizers hope to have trained every member of the department about how to acknowledge their own biases about other cultures as well as how to building stronger relationships with communities of color.

Kenyatta Grant, who has led similar training for other police agencies, is leading the effort. During the sessions, trainers discuss how communities of color came to distrust law enforcement and how officers can rebuild that trust, she said.

“We want to really sit down and have an honest dialogue and conversation about race relations not only in our country but in West Virginia,” Grant said.

The sessions come two months after the Call to Action for Racial Equality coalition and Charleston police announced an initiative to improve race relations, particularly with black residents.

During that announcement, Police Chief Bret Webster said he wanted his department to “remain ahead of the curve” at a time activists across the nation have criticized numerous fatal shootings of black men by white police officers.

In addition to the anti-racism training, Webster in October announced plans to use body cameras. Officers who routinely come in contact with the public are now using the cameras every day, Webster said.

Black people made up 11.8 percent of the population in Charleston from 2010 to 2014, but make up about 28 to 30 percent of arrests by the police department, Webster has said.

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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