By Dani Moritz-Long
“Police officers have to be warriors, but they also have to be guardians.”
This is the mantra of Jeff Goltz, executive dean, School of Public Safety, as he helps lead Valencia — and the Central Florida community — toward more accepting and peaceful police-civilian relations.
With national attention on police and community relations involving recent incidents of excessive use of force, his mantra is of particular importance.
Jeff, who helps shape the future of Central Florida law enforcement through the Criminal Justice Institute, recognizes and appreciates this importance. As a 20-year law enforcement veteran, he does not agree that police officers join the force with ill-intentions or practice inequitable policing. He does, however, agree that it’s important for Valencia to do everything it can to help reduce unnecessary violence and promote ethical treatment of civilians through criminal justice training programs.
In fact, according to Jeff, Valencia has been engaged with creating a positive police force long before these incidents drew national attention.
It all starts with the police academy, where students are exposed to a curriculum rich in topics like dealing with diversity, communicating in a crisis situation and building trust and legitimacy in a community.
In the wake of current events, the curriculum may also change statewide to focus on procedurally just policing, which emphasizes the importance of dignity and respect from both the officer and civilian as well as the dangers of implicit bias.
Always at the forefront of change, many of Valencia’s leaders, including Jeff, James McDonald, dean, career and technical programs and former Orlando Police Department sergeant, and former Kissimmee Police Chief Lee Massie, now the managing director, Criminal Justice Institute, have been asked to be involved in conversations with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which will shape the future of Florida policing.
Jeff also explained that the academy will continue to teach the importance of blending both proper force and protection — as illustrated in his personal mantra.
“We teach both in the academy,” he said. “We go in the gym and teach them how to protect themselves and the public, but there’s this interaction and communication with people as a guardian. We have to be able to flip a switch and do both.”
He continued, “You’re trained how to use force effectively, how to de-escalate effectively and really how to be a good guardian — a shoulder for someone to lean on if they need to.”
An additional element of building that trust and showcasing a commitment to the community is community service. Each student enrolled in Valencia’s law enforcement academy is asked to volunteer, and the student who completes the most community service hours is awarded with the Dr. Jeffery W. Goltz Community Service Award, something Jeff is incredibly proud of.
“They enjoy going out and volunteering in our community because that’s police work,” said Jeff. “When you become a police officer, you’re not just going to work to go answer police calls and prevent crime. You’re a part of your community, and you’re expected to be involved in your community and do more than just your job. That’s just the nature of the business.”
Luckily, Jeff has no difficulty encouraging students to participate. Whether they are helping with the March of Dimes or volunteering at a community human trafficking event, Jeff describes the academy students as active and eager to help — even when they’re off the clock.
Professional Continuing Education
Another way Valencia fosters positive interaction between police and the public is continuing education workshops developed in partnership with the Peace and Justice Institute (PJI) such as Respectful and Assertive Policing (RAP) and community dialogue events.
These workshops are designed to help officers develop the skills, behaviors and values necessary to improve interpersonal communication and recognize personal bias — no matter how small — to ensure officers can effectively and fairly serve diverse communities. Working with PJI’s Principles for How We Treat Each Other, the work connects with the recommendations of the President’s task force on 21st century policing, which calls for law enforcement agencies to promote public trust in the community by initiating positive non-enforcement activities and adopting community and procedurally just policing models.
“PJI is honored to partner with the Criminal Justice Institute, Professional Continuing Education and local law enforcement agencies in this important work of addressing public safety,” said Rachel Chipman Allen, who directs the work of PJI. As police are charged with upholding the constitutional rights of all citizens, PJI sees the opportunity to teach procedurally just policing and foster positive relations between police and the community as positive and potentially transformative.”
According to Jeff, Central Florida officers have attended the workshops in droves — eager to enhance their knowledge and skill to better serve the public.
At the root of all solutions is communication and commonality, so Valencia’s Peace and Justice Institute has partnered with Mayor Buddy Dyer to bridge the divide between police and civilians through Orlando Speaks.
Constructed as community dialogues where police officers and citizens can come together to share stories, fears and concerns in a safe environment, the program has already been successful in helping local police and citizens to consider messages about the police, explore the impact of personal bias on our interactions with others, forge relationships and strengthen trust between protector and protected.
“Perhaps for the first time both citizens and police consider their relationship and the needs that each group has during an Orlando Speaks event,” Rachel said. “The need for safety, respect and voice are at the top of everyone’s list. And given the history of policing in various communities in our nation, both past and present, these needs must be nurtured and attended to by everyone. We all play a part in the relationship between the community and law enforcement and building public safety. Orlando Speaks aims to engage each individual in that important work.”
While you may think police officers are weary to attend, the opposite is true.
“The officers enjoy it,” said Jeff. “The citizens enjoy it. It builds a bridge, trust and legitimacy between police officers and the communities they serve.”
He added, “Citizens need to get to know officers and vice versa. Police officers are human beings. They’re your neighbors. They’re your Boy Scout leaders, Girl Scout leaders. They’re your ushers at church. They’re your community, and I think we need to understand that better as a society.”
If you are interested in joining this community conversation, the next Orlando Speaks event is scheduled for Wednesday, October 19, 2016, in District 2 of the city.
Going forward, Jeff hopes that civilians can see past the few examples of corrupt officers to trust deserving local law enforcement and, in return, officers can continue training to be the best officers they can be, only resorting to force in necessary situations.
“There have been some very poor judgments and decisions made by some officers, but that doesn’t represent the 99.9 percent of officers who are doing their jobs well and love what they do, who love their community and the diversity in their community,” he said.
Without doubt, Jeff will continue doing what he loves — and what he feels he was called to do — by serving his community and empowering new generations of officers to follow in his footsteps.