Patrick McCrory

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Breaking the Barriers Training

1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.

Breaking the Barriers is a mandatory eight hour training program for all Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department personnel. The focus of the training is to allow police personnel to discuss diversity and racism, both within the police department and the community, in a nonthreatening setting. The training is held in a round table format and is facilitated by two police personnel who have been specially trained to facilitate this program. The goal of the training is to heighten each individual’s awareness of the stereotypes and prejudices that may be a part of his world view. The atmosphere created in this training session allows the employee to admit that these feelings exist and removes the fear and negativism associated with admitting to these feelings. The training acknowledges that the first step in overcoming racial prejudices and stereotypes is to acknowledge their existence and to begin building bridges to help understand the point of view of individuals of a different race. Hopefully, by the end of the training, the participants will have learned to see the point of view of individuals of another race and have a greater understanding of the concept and the value of multi-culturalism.

Another goal of the training is to engage all participants in the discussion. Ground rules for the discussion are established at the beginning of the session to insure that the participants are respectful but understand that it is alright to disagree. The training is not delivered in a traditional lecture setting; it is highly interactive with participants engaging in a number of exercises designed to facilitate discussion and interaction.

This training is part of a multi-year effort to provide quality cultural diversity training to police employees. The first year of the training was an eight hour overview entitled "Introduction to Cross-Cultural Communications" which dealt with the diverse cultures moving into Charlotte-Mecklenburg in large numbers. Breaking the Barriers was the second year of this training. The third year of training is now underway with an emphasis on understanding the differences among the cultures who make up Charlotte’s population. Diversity training and a police force reflective of the culture that it serves remains a priority of Charlotte’s Chief of Police.

2. When was the program created and why?

The program was created in the summer of 1997 in response to a mandate from the Chief of Police that all police personnel receive eight hours of diversity training per year. Charlotte-Mecklenburg is becoming increasingly diverse with a rapidly growing Hispanic and Asian population. The Chief felt that it was imperative that the department reach out to these new residents and that departmental employees understand Asian and Hispanic cultures.

At the same time, the community had begun to engage in constructive dialogue regarding race relations in our city. One of the catalysts for that discussion was three shootings in which white police officers had shot and killed African-American citizens. The shootings caused some community residents to question the state of race relations within the Police Department. While this training was actually being planned prior to those events, the timing was advantageous in that it coincided with the community discussion on race relations within the larger community.

3. How do you measure the program’s effectiveness?

The effectiveness of this type of training is obviously difficult to measure. The course evaluations were, for the most part, positive. Instructors reported that the participants became quite involved in the discussion and that many of them seemed to develop genuine empathy with their counterparts of a different race.

The department is in the process of measuring citizen satisfaction with police services. Some connection may be made between citizen satisfaction with police services and the heightened awareness that employees have developed through exposure to training of this type. There is also the assumption that relationships within the department have been strengthened as employees develop more openness and trust in their communication with one another. The department believes that diversity training is so critical that it has made the commitment to giving each of its almost 1700 employees eight hours of training per year.

4. How is the program financed?

The program is financed through the department’s training budget.

5. How is the community involved in the program, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Department was heavily involved in both the design of the program and in training the police personnel who served as facilitators. Members of the community were invited to come observe the training.

6. What are the major lessons learned that would be helpful for others trying to implement a similar program?

Police personnel are willing to discuss race relations and related issues if given the opportunity to do so in an adult environment.

Given the right training structure, participants can put themselves in another person’s shoes.

7. What specific advice do you have for mayors interested in replicating a program such as yours?

Understand the time commitment involved in planning this type of training and administering it to a large organization.

Be certain that there is input from the community in planning the training.

The importance of the training and the organization’s commitment must be stressed by the top official of the organization to be trained.

Organizations offering this type of training to their employees must be open to their honest feedback and must be willing to examine their organizations in light of that feedback.

For more information, please contact:

Officer Dee Faulkner
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Training Academy
1750 Shopton Road
Charlotte, North Carolina 28217
Telephone: (704) 525-6145, Ext. 276
Fax: (704) 525-0143

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