COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Strained relationships between police officers and communities continue to make headlines with issues like racial tension and claims of discrimination at the center of many of the conflicts.
"I want to challenge the deputies, challenge them to have a 21st century mindset," Marshal Greg Countryman with the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office.
Police brutality, claims of wrongful deaths in custody, officers becoming targets of tension-driven attacks – issues like these prompted Muscogee County Marshal's Office Deputies to take a look at the man or woman in the mirror.
The department recently received training on how to assess their biases as officers in order to serve the community fairly.
The program was a two and a half day training called Fair and Impartial Policing held at the Georgia Public Safety Training center in Forsyth.
"In order to continue to restore the public's trust, we must understand our biases whether if they are implicit or explicit," Countryman said.
"We have what we call these implicit biases which means they are unconscious, we don't know they are there, we are not thinking about them every day but they are there," said Captain Curtis Lockette with the Muscogee County Marshal's Office. "That's so important for us in law enforcement, because we deal with people's lives. We are unique to any job out there because we can take your liberty, we take your property, and ultimately we can take your life."
One psychology professor we spoke with says programs like these are a great first step, but it will all boil down to if an individual officer wants to change.
"If the individuals who are going through this training think A. that they are not biased, and therefore they don't need this training, or they are undergoing the training only because they are thinking that they might get in trouble if they don't," said Dr. Katherine White, CSU Psychology professor. "So in other words their motivation for acting in a non-biased fashion is totally external, not coming from internally wanting to change, it can actually make it worse."
Because of rising tensions and increasing reports of police misconduct, many law enforcement agencies and communities across the country have called for all officers to wear body cameras.