Columbus Police Department undergoes restorative practice training

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 9:01 AM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - High-ranking officers are getting a lesson in restorative practice training that covers topics of team building, inclusion, and diversity but above all – teaches officers to communicate first with offenders instead of being quick to punish in hopes to build better relationships with the community.

Breaking stereotypes and labels is one way Dr. Charles Flowers is working to promote a more equitable community policing effort for Columbus Police Officers.

“We feel like that will lead to a greater relationship within the department, within the community, and hopefully that would curb some of the community crime that we are seeing,” Dr. Flowers said.

In a nation where over the last year, the divide between law enforcement and the community has seemed to grow larger, Columbus Police Chief Freddie Blackmon says his intention is to help bridge that gap by offering this training to officers.

“Our citizens need to be able to trust our officers and we understand that,” Chief Blackmon said. “That is why we are doing what we can to improve trust.”

The restorative practice teachings gives law enforcement internal tools to have a non-biased mindset when interacting with the community - whether that’s on the streets patrolling or making an arrest.

“The offenders who committed an offense, they still have a responsibility; they still have worth to society,” Dr. Flowers said. “So our goal is to not dehumanize them.”

Assistant Police Chief Joyce Dent-Fitzpatrick says her biggest takeaway from this training?

Sometimes people deserve a second chance and if an officer can help to lift them up above the throes of crime, that act could help bring unity to a divided community.

“Circumstances do not dictate your future - you can get off that slippery slope, you can turn around you can make a change,” Asst. Chief Dent-Fitzpatrick said. “If you don’t do anything but bring one person on board to say we’re not going to do this, or we’re going to take another path to make something of our lives... then we have reached that person and that is good for us.”

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