Valencia College’s Criminal Justice Institute at the School of Public Safety (SPS) was recently featured in a News 6 report about how law enforcement agencies in Central Florida are responding to calls for reform.
“In November 2019, the Orange/Osceola Police Chief’s Association approached me and asked if we could provide both fair and impartial policing and de-escalation training for their agencies,” shared Rob Pigman, director, criminal justice institute. “Both of these courses were provided in a train-the-trainer format, meaning that each law enforcement agency within Orange and Osceola counties sent select personnel to the train-the-trainer courses here at SPS. They then returned to their respective agencies (with all lesson plans and teaching aids provided) to teach the rest of the officers within their respective agencies.”
Courses are instructed by nationally recognized experts. For example, Dr. Lori Fridell, a criminologist with the University of South Florida, taught the the Fair and Impartial Policing course, which focused on the fact that all humans have implicit biases. The course was designed to make officers recognize their biases and to learn methods of minimizing and/or mitigating bias when serving the community.
John Bostain from Command Presence taught the De-escalation course. This course focused on creating the opportunity for subjects to de-escalate and to become cooperative and compliant, including being empathetic, not rushing into a solution and improving proper communication while allowing the subject to vent.
“This was the first time we have offered this training since 2017, but our planning to host this training began in 2019, long before the recent social unrest,” Rob explained. “In fact, we were set to provide this training in March of this year, but we were forced to delay the training due to the pandemic. After several high-profile incidents at the national level, we decided that it was too important to wait any longer. Therefore, we re-grouped and were able to get these trainings scheduled for early August and September.”
At this time, these courses are not a part of the Law Enforcement Academy because the academy curriculum is strictly mandated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement/Criminal Justice and Standards Training Committee (FDLE/CJSTC).
However, “the CJSTC is re-writing and updating the current curriculum to include both Fair and Impartial Policing and De-escalation training for law enforcement recruits,” Rob added. “The updated curriculum should be voted on by the CJSTC in November of this year. We will know more at that time, but clearly, changes are coming to the state-mandated curriculum.”
The SPS team is also working on other programs to aid police reform. It is currently working with Orange County’s Public Safety Director, Danny Banks, to host RITE (racial injustice, training and engagement) training in December. This train-the-trainer course for local agencies will focus on providing additional training for officers to develop cultural awareness within the workplace in order to promote better relationships and trust within the community.
CJI is also working with Lauren Sykes; professor, criminal justice technology, and chair of the Criminal Justice A.S. program, to develop an advanced-specialized (continuing education for law enforcement) course on emotional intelligence to promote a sense of empathy and understanding for the community that law enforcement serves.
Additionally, Executive Dean of the School of Public Safety Jeff Goltz has formed a task force, in conjunction with the Peace and Justice Institute and many stakeholders from throughout Central Florida, to further address issues of fair and impartial policing. The first task force meeting was held on Friday, September 25, 2020, and there will be five additional meetings held through February 2021. The meetings will culminate in recommendations for fair and impartial education and training in several public safety courses and programs and will be the foundation for the upcoming School of Public Safety’s Impact Plan, a plan with an equity and opportunity theme across Access, Graduation, Transfer and Workforce.