The city of Nashville is using its own fraught history in the Civil Rights Movement as part of its training program for new police recruits.
The Associated Press reports that recruits to the Nashville police force are learning lessons in civil rights history and meeting with civil rights leaders current and former before being assigned to beats.
Nashville police think that given all the incidents that have occurred between police and citizens in the last year, across the country, civil rights trainings will lead to more "even-handed" work and help restore trust between police and the communities they serve.
According to WTVF News Channel 5 in Nashville, which filmed parts of a recent session, new recruits have been learning about "people who are still alive, still in Nashville, still fighting for justice." The AP reported, for example, that about 60 members of the Nashville police force recently met with civil rights leader and congressman John Lewis.
"This interaction is going to put in the minds of everybody in that room, 'When I approach someone or someone approaches me, I need to think about where they may be coming from,'" Nashville police Chief Steve Anderson told the AP after speaking to recruits at a recent session.
Police Chief Anderson told WTVF, "That's why we're here today. We all need to better understand each other."
The curriculum for new recruits has been successful enough that new programs are being developed for veteran officers as well as members of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
"Remembering the valuable lessons learned from the mistakes of the past helps us to better serve the diverse public we encounter in our work every day," TBI Director Mark Gwyn told the AP.
Andrea Blackman, who oversees the library's program, told the AP that, after visiting themselves, police chiefs from across the country have asked her to develop a version of the program that could be exported to their cities. WTVF reports that a police group from Germany is scheduled to travel to Nashville and participate in the program as well.
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