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Cultural Awareness and Communication Training: What Works and What Doesn't

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 68 Issue: 11 Dated: November 2001 Pages: 15-19
Stephen M Hennessy Ed.D.; Cindy Hendricks Ph.D.; James Hendricks Ph.D.
Charles E. Higginbotham
Date Published
November 2001
5 pages
This article presents a brief history of cultural diversity training in law enforcement, and then how law enforcement agencies can maximize the effectiveness of cultural awareness and communication training.
The majority of a law enforcement officer’s daily duties consist of one-on-one communication with citizens. An officer’s ability to communicate with an individual whose culture is different from their own is seen as critical. Cultural diversity training for law enforcement began in the 1960's. In the 1970's and 1980's, diversity training was still being taught, but under a reactive or crisis mode. In the 1990's and today, officers continue to receive training in cultural awareness and communication. However, those experienced in police training are now reviewing the courses being taught from a police training perspective, to adjust the politically correct content and methodology. In order to maximize the effectiveness of the training, four questions must be addressed: (1) who is the audience; (2) who should be the instructors; (3) what is trying to be accomplished in these concerns; and (4) how do you get there? Cultural awareness courses need to be logically structured, reality-based, and relevant to the job of policing. In addition, those instructors most effective in cultural awareness training are those who are members of their own departments. The ultimate goal in diversity training is to help officers to pragmatically think about the changes in the community and how these changes can affect their jobs and their profession. Effective training suggests dividing sensitivity training into two distinct types: race-relations or sensitivity and cultural or racial awareness. In summation, individuals must adapt to racial and cultural differences and integrate differences into their worldview.