Troopers undergo diversity training

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 17, 2003

State Troopers from Ala-bama, Tennessee and Missis-sippi completed a four-day Hate and Bias Crime Training Program here this week. It was the first time the Alabama troopers had ever done any type of diversity training.

The program was taught by members of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, who travel all over the country training police officers to be more aware of hate crimes.

“It’s an honor to be in Selma right before Martin Luther King Day teaching about diversity,” said John Holland, one of the instructors.

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Sgt. Rufus Washington

of the Department of Public Safety described the program as a “trainer training course.” He said officers who attended the program learned to teach their co-workers and members of the community about avoiding hate.

“We learned about a variety of things throughout the four days,” Washington said. “On the last day we created lesson plans to use when talking to teachers and community groups about racism.”

Tim Sebastian, another training instructor, said the program is held at no cost to the police department.

“It’s a good return for the investment of time,” Sebastian said.

Washington said he heard about the program through catalogs and had taken the FLETC course online through Auburn University at Montgomery. He thought it would be a good idea to bring the program to Selma.

Laurie Wood, an instructor from the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the officers were among the most responsive groups she had ever worked with.

“This is the first time we have had a really diverse group of students. They all came from such wide backgrounds and participated in the program really well,” Wood said.

The FLETC program began in 1994 in New Jersey. Since that time, instructors have traveled to almost every state helping police officers to better understand hate crimes.

During the program in Selma, officers were divided into groups. Throughout the four days, they learned about the history of hate, how to recognize it, legal concerns, investigative strategies and community relations.

The course ended late Thursday afternoon and the officers who participated said it helped them understand more about racism and bias.

“This program will allow us to be more pro-active in law enforcement,” Washington said.