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Phoenix Police Department starts new diversity training

PHOENIX — Phoenix police officers have began participating in a new cultural diversity training program this week, which aims to teach police about the unique cultural differences between various races and ethnicities in the city.

Dr. Matthew C. Whitaker, ASU Foundation Professor of History in the College of Letters and Sciences and founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, said the program will ensure that Phoenix will not follow in the footsteps of Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.

The cities have seen devastating riots over the deaths of two unarmed black men, Freddie Gray and Michael Brown, at the hands of police officers. Whitaker said he hopes this program will prevent incidents such as these from happening in the Valley.

Whitaker was tasked by Phoenix city leaders to teach the course. Every sworn Phoenix police officer will be required to take the 8-hour training.

In order to stay up-to-date with the changing cultural demographics of Phoenix, Whitaker said it is imperative for police officers to take the course.

“There isn’t sufficient training, particularly in cultural competency,” he said. “We live in a very diverse world and it’s becoming more diverse by the minute.”

The program is designed to teach police how to interact with people from various races in a respectful manner, which Whitaker said can help officers maintain positive interactions with the public.

“For instance, with police officers, things like eye-contact, stance, body movements, tone of voice,” he said. “Those things are all very important.”