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New Haven's religious leaders learn how Yale University police connect to their community

As part of their training, Yale University police officers now receive what's called cultural competence training. Clergy members got to see the training Friday.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — For much of this week, numerous New Haven religious leaders have been speaking out about the need for police to learn more about and collaborate with their communities through training. Friday, the clergy received some training of their own.  

As part of their training, Yale University police officers now receive what's called cultural competence training, which helps them connect with the community they police. And Friday, the Greater New Haven Clergy Association received a condensed version.

"The police need to understand the lived experience of the people they are policing," said Lorenzo Boyd, Ph.D., who is a police consultant and trainer. "There is no real way to make a connection to people that you don’t know."

He says since George Floyd was killed almost a year ago many police departments nationwide are moving in this direction.

"But kudos to Yale University because it was a year before that (Floyd death) that they reached out and wanted to do this," said Boyd, who is also the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion at the University of New Haven.

He says this type of training is important to the Yale University Police Department, in part, because their community includes students from all over the world and the general New Haven population.

"80% to 90% of what we do as law enforcement officers has nothing really to do with law enforcement," said Yale Assistant Police Chief Anthony Campbell. "It has to do with serving the community."

The clergy was impressed by the two-hour session Boyd presided over.

"If you don’t know the community that you’re policing and if you’re not engaged with that community before you get hired on the force the possibility of you falling into a negative encounter is very high," said Pastor John Lewis of the Greater New Haven Clergy Association.

Boyd, who was a Sherriff's Deputy in Massachusetts for 14 years, says his focus is to help officers realize that they can make a positive difference in people's lives.

"If you get this wrong, people lose their lives," Boyd said. "You have to get this right and in the classroom, in the training room that’s where I want police officers to make the mistake."

The clergy say they meet with the Yale University Police Department leadership approximately once a month they hope to build a similar relationship with the new leadership of the New Haven Police Department. 

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