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UTPD first to receive cultural competency training through new Law Enforcement Innovation Center program

Officers with the University of Tennessee Police Department spent the week examining their perceptions, stereotypes and cultural assumptions.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Students aren't the only ones taking lessons at the University of Tennessee. 

Officers with the University of Tennessee Police Department spent the week learning about how to better serve the Volunteer community and examined their perceptions, stereotypes and cultural assumptions in a new training program.

The department was the first to take part in the three-day certification program from the UT Law Enforcement Innovation Center. It is designed to improve cultural competency and reduce biased-based policing in the law enforcement community, officials said.

All UT System law enforcement agencies will receive the training before it is launched nationwide, according to a release from officials.

“We continually strive to get better as a law enforcement profession,” said UTPD Chief Troy Lane. “This training has allowed us a comfortable place to discuss biases and how to overcome them or at least recognize them and avoid allowing them to influence our actions as law enforcement officers.”

The training's topics include diversity, self-reflection, self-awareness, de-escalation strategies, critical decision-making and ethics. It is being offered in partnership with the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

Instructors included Dereck Stewart, a retired Tennessee Highway Patrol colonel, and Teresa Stafford who is a teaching associate with the LEIC.

It was created through a request from Randy Boyd, the UT System President, who officials said reached out to the UT Institute for Public Service to create a social justice program for law enforcement after the death of George Floyd.