- Associated Press - Sunday, November 27, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Montgomery police are being trained to recognize how they are influenced by biases they might bring to the job.

The training is led by former Tuskegee Mayor Omar Neal, who is a graduate of the Montgomery Police Academy, The Montgomery Advertiser reported (https://on.mgmadv.com/2fovzUJ ).

Neal said he is teaching officers about cultural sensitivity, de-escalation techniques, effective communication and how to deal with implicit bias.

He said when officers can empathize with people, understanding is improved and the public sees officers as being fair.

Patrol officer JS Carthen has been on the job two years. She said the training has helped her recognize the importance of not treating people differently because of their economic background or appearance.

“I had a scenario when I was talking to a kid who was more privileged than the other kid,” Carthen said. “I sided a little bit with the other kid before I stepped back and (realized) they’re kids. They’re the same age. They think on the same level. It doesn’t matter if he has a bigger house or if he is worried about if his lights are turned on. They’re both humans.”

She said that’s the kind of insight Neal is trying to teach the officers.

“Don’t separate the difference between people because of their economic status or color of their skin or what side of town they live on,” Carthen said. “Look at everybody as being human, being the same. Go into it being positive, and you’ll get positive reinforcement.”

Montgomery Police Chief Ernie Finley said he hopes the training will help officers deal with tension on the job.

“We know what we’re seeing nationwide, and it’s really not a healthy sight in law enforcement,” Finley said. “We’re talking ambushes, we’re talking officer-involved shootings. How do we prepare ourselves for that and be safe so we can provide a great service to the great people of Montgomery?”

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