I asked police officers to help me decide on the content for the Badges2Bridges program. Mike Grodzinski, Program Advisor to Badges2Bridges, was candid with me about the realities of policing. Mike is a retired police officer with 30 years experience. He currently teaches at the Police College in Ontario, Canada. Mike was open in his responses and did not hold back. I was learning about another side of policing that I do not see reflected on television. In Part 1, Mike Grodzinski discusses policing from his point of view. Here is an excerpt from my interview with Mike.
Anita: Mike, I need to understand the world that police officers live in. What do police officers need to learn where cross-cultural education and training is concerned?
Mike: We need officers who understand how members of the community feel. We need officers who understand what it feels like to be stopped three times when they’re just going to get a jug of milk. Education for police officers need to come in the form of online (internet) learning. Online learning is just as effective as face to face learning. However, officers often have negative experiences on the job. They may not come into policing feeling that way, but [with] every negative experience, their view of communities change. Policing takes health people and make them sick.
Part of the education of offices has to be that they need to keep their minds open and to keep learning. Right now, mental health education and the psychological education that officers receive is pathetic. The education that police officers receive needs to address stress that officers are under and the fact that officer go through traumatic incidents. A psychologist doesn’t know what officers go through. Officers need mentoring when they go through traumatic experiences and often suffer in silence. Often, when there is a major complaint about an officer, the police service has already seen “red flags” that should alert Senior Command of the fact that the officer is struggling. A healthy mind is key. Right now, only senior officers receive media training and this type of education is important for front-line staff as well.
Anita: What is one frustration that police officers are grappling with?
Mike: I would find it reviling if someone called me a racist. We don’t need trainers or training that says, “You racist white cop”. This will just turn officers off. Things can be done much better. We’re not working as a community. Police officers are provided with a wide array of education and many officers are highly educated. Diversity is taught at many of the police colleges, but it’s the quality of training that is important. For instance, we had a diversity trainer in the past who used circles and squares from the children’s show Sesame Street to demonstrate the examples. The officers were offended and turned off. We need a trainer who can build bridges between the community and the police.
Anita: Mike, as a law enforcement professional what do you want to learn?
Mike: I want to learn information that is relevant. I want to learn information that can help the African Canadian community. I want to learn information that is beneficial and allows for better understanding for officers to serve communities better.
What are some other cross-cultural issues that police officers are grappling with? I am interested in learning about your experiences.