Dozens of Baltimore, university police receive cultural training
Dozens of city and campus police officers gathered at Morgan State University in Northeast Baltimore on Wednesday for special training aimed at enhancing their “cultural competency” and ability to interact positively with city residents.
“We care very much about our city and you, and we are interested in contributing to building bridges,” said Anna McPhatter, dean of the university’s School of Social Work, whose faculty members led the morning seminar.
About 40 members of the Baltimore Police Department and 25 members of the Morgan State University Police and Public Safety Department attended. A major theme was the cultural differences between generations, including how baby boomers and millennials react differently to authority.
“They come with a whole different mindset,” said Kevin Daniels, a senior professor in the School of Social Work.
Millennials often are more engaged on social media than in person, and can be quick to talk back to authority, Daniels said.
Chief Ganesha Martin, head of the Baltimore Police Department’s compliance division, which is negotiating a pending consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, said many millennial officers have similar problems engaging with residents, an obstacle to effective foot patrols.
The training also touched on the importance of recognizing that not all cultural differences are immediately obvious — such as the different lenses through which a black resident born and raised in Baltimore and a black immigrant from Africa or the Caribbean may see the world.
The program, provided by the school at the request of Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, represented the latest effort by the department to supplement its standard police academy curriculum with a more nuanced sociological education on the city and the residents who populate it.
It follows the introduction of a separate training program on the history of Baltimore, and comes amid a renewed focus on “community policing” after the Justice Department released a scathing report this summer outlining a long history of discriminatory and unconstitutional policing.
It also comes as Morgan officials are discussing ways to improve security on and around the campus after the stabbing deaths of two students near the school this year.
David Wilson, Morgan’s president, said he and his staff “huddled” after the unrest in the city last year to determine what resources the university could use to help the city — and the Police Department — move forward. One resource it focused on was its staff.
Wilson said it is critical that officers work “hand in glove with the residents” toward progress. The Morgan staff can help ensure that happens, but only with the cooperation of police, he said.
“Your role is so critical in helping communities to better deepen the level of trust and respect and understanding between them and you, who are there to protect all of us,” Wilson said.
Throughout much of the seminar, many officers remained silent, but others volunteered their own thoughts — including on the generational divide they see among residents.
“One of the things I’ve noticed is the older generations have found their niche — they’re the bartender, the mechanic, the teacher, the real estate salesperson, the road builder. Unfortunately, the millennials are having a hard time getting to that niche, and it worries me because there is a degree of anger, and actually because of that anger there is fear,” said Officer William O’Donnell, an older white officer. “I’m really concerned about where we’re going, because if you can’t find jobs that are productive, that pay for their efforts, and the money’s not there, then I’m heartbroken for the next generation.”
Police and university officials hope to turn the training into a national model. Ellamont St. in Southwest Baltimore around 3:13 p.m. Wednesday. He was taken to a hospital for treatment. On Tuesday night, a 36-year-old man was shot in his hand, elbow and shoulder while driving in Curtis Bay, police said. Someone opened fire on the man, police said, while he was driving in the 1600 block of Hazel St. Officers were called about 10:45 p.m. to the shooting. The man was hospitalized. Anyone with information can call police, 1-866-7LOCKUP.