This summer civil unrest peaked across the country and police relations were at the core of the controversy. A northern Illinois women’s empowerment organization is offering a training that could help Boone and Winnebago County law enforcement understand their communities better.
YWCA Northwestern Illinois CEO Kris Machajewski said some police officers aren’t informed of the many cultures that exist.
“And just like anyone, we have to first even bring the awareness that there are all of these cultures,” she explained. “And then where do our implicit biases lie in those that we don't even know we have?”
Machajewski said culture isn’t just someone’s ethnic customs but also their way of life. She cited examples like poverty and imprisonment.
“And sometimes the way we interact when we communicate with them requires a level of understanding of what their experiences are and what their cultures are on how they live,” she said.
Machajewski mentioned that Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana didn’t hesitant to say yes when asked about the training.
“It really was one phone call to Sheriff Caruana," she shared. "And I [said], ‘You know, I want to write this grant, I don't know if I'm going to get it, it's going to be a really competitive grant. But if I get it, can you commit to giving me all of Winnebago County Sheriff's office to train?’”
Machajewski stated that the YWCA has worked with Winnebago law enforcement since 2013 in a variety of ways.
The first Implicit Bias and Cultural Competence training started with the Winnebago sheriff’s office Nov. 30. Training will continue with other departments through the end of January. Those who are interested in helping with the training can email the YWCA to find out if they are qualified.
- Yvonne Boose is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.