Metro, News

City police participate in LGBTQ+ inclusivity training

Program covers inclusive vocabulary, relationship between law enforcement and LGBTQ+ individuals

Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

By the end of this week, the Providence Police Department will have finished providing new LGBTQ+ inclusivity training to all of its in-service officers, said Providence Police Captain Kevin Lanni. Two hundred fifty-two Providence police officers have already completed the program, he added.

“We’re reflecting (on and) evaluating how we can better serve different groups within the community,” Lanni said, adding that LGBTQ+ sensitivity training would encourage individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ to “feel comfortable calling the police knowing they’ll be treated with respect.”

The program came to fruition in part thanks to Jodi Glass of the Rhode Island Commission on Prejudice and Bias, who reached out to the Providence Police Department in 2016 following the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando.

As a result of Glass’ efforts, the PPD, the Rhode Island Commission on Prejudice and Bias, Sojourner House and the Providence Human Relations Commission came together to create the Providence LGBTQ+ partnership. The city received an Open Societies Foundation Grant to fund the program, said Sojourner House’s Director of Operations Sarah DeCataldo.

The partnership has “evolved substantially” over the last two years, DeCataldo added.

The LGBTQ+ inclusivity curriculum was officially mandated to be administered department-wide in January after a successful set of trainings with the 68th recruit academy in summer 2017. The recruits completed a retrospective evaluation at the completion of the program and demonstrated improvement in their “thoughts, feelings, attitudes and knowledge” about LGBTQ+ issues, DeCataldo said.

The trainings — which last four hours according to DeCataldo —  address and explore four facets of identity: sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and biological sex, DeCataldo said. The session works to help officers move away from interpreting gender and sexual orientation as binaries and rather understand them as spectrums.

The program seeks to encourage effective communication regarding LGBTQ+ issues by providing officers with a more nuanced and inclusive vocabulary, DeCataldo said. It also highlights the barriers that have historically existed between the LGBTQ+ community and the police.

“There’s so much history as to why LGBTQ communities can’t trust law enforcement (and) why communities of color can’t trust law enforcement,” Glass said.

“I have been training law enforcement in Rhode Island for almost 15 years on various issues, and I have never received as much positive feedback about a training … as I have with this one,” DeCataldo said. “We had officers come up to us on breaks, in between sessions (and) before sessions just to say ‘this was really helpful, I learned so much, thank you so much.’”

Moving forward, Glass hopes that the trainings continue to enable officers to responsibly report and respond to hate crimes. “What is lacking is community-police relationships,” Glass said.

“My personal ongoing feeling is that if we can get in the door and build relationships, that’s what’s going to make the difference,” Glass added.