State police work to improve relations with members of underserved communities

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HERSHEY, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — How much force is too much force? That was just one of the questions posed today at “Use of Force” training at the state police academy in Hershey.

State police officials wanted to show the public the training given to cadets. Part of that training includes improving relations and communications with members of communities that feel they are often ignored or even disrespected by the police.

The Pennsylvania State Police has a special division called the Heritage Affairs. Its main goal is to build better relations between the State Police, local police and under-served and minority communities.

“I believe we are making inroads,” says Lt. William Slaton, Heritage Affairs Commander of Pennsylvania State Police.

The heritage affairs division’s mission is to build bridges within those communities where tensions between law enforcement and its residents may be running high.

“Most of the protests that have occurred have been relatively peaceful. Our section is working behind the scenes to engage those protestors and community members to listen to their concerns and convey to them why certain things occur in a certain manner. Why decisions to make charges may not come out right away, things like that, ” says Lt. William Slaton.

Slaton says cadets are trained on a wide range of topics.

“So, we are training all our cadets on subjects like racial profiling awareness, implicit bias awareness as well as cultural competency. It’s important because state police need educational foundation to understand why community members are so frustrated in terms of interaction with law enforcement. There are historical challenges we have to face.”

Ron Felton is president of the Wilkes-Barre chapter of the NAACP. He is pleased to hear about the training, but insists that communities need to do more to build trust among citizens and their police departments.

“I think there needs to be the citizens review board so that’s because what disciplinary action is being taken against an officer who exhibits the use of excessive force,” says Felton.

State police officials say the bottom line is to build better relations with all of our communities, especially the under-served and minority communities.

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