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Law enforcement academies launch initiative to re-think police training

At least 11 of 24 programs around Colorado will consider adding lessons about implicit bias and social justice.

DENVER — The peaceful setting of places like Red Rocks Community College might be one source of quelling the unrest when it comes to social justice and the police.

"This is not intended to be an attack on law enforcement. It's not abolishing law enforcement. It's about making law enforcement more effective and more effective in serving all communities," said Joe Garcia, Colorado Community College System (CCCS) president. 

CCCS runs eight law enforcement academies around Colorado. It is partnering with three others, the Attorney General's Office and Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training Board to launch a new initiative to re-examine training and consider adding lessons on implicit bias and social justice.

"We need to ask people from the community whether we are appropriately training and equipping the law enforcement officers who are going to work in their communities," Garcia said.

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A steering committee made up of government and community leaders will guide the discussion of what needs to change. Omar Montgomery is a Black community leader and a member of the committee.

"We need to instill trust in our communities and this is a good start to making it happen," Montgomery said.

He hopes that by helping officers-in-training understand different perspectives, it may help de-escalate deadly situations like what happened to George Floyd and Elijah McClain.

"I think if we catch officers early at the beginning of the training process to understand implicit bias and social justice issues even if you don't agree," Montgomery said.

He hopes that revamped training can also lead to healing in relationships between police and the community especially Blacks. 

"It's this us against them mentality. Sooner or later, we're going to have to bridge that gap," Montgomery said.

Garcia hopes that changes can be made to have a new law enforcement curriculum in place by next fall. He said it is important to move quickly.

"But, we want to do it comprehensively," Garcia said. "We don't just want to tinker around the edges."

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