Members of the Island’s six police departments will engage in an implicit and unconscious bias training on May 4, 5, and 6.
The training will be conducted on-Island by Hillard Heintze, a security risk-management team based in Chicago. It was originally scheduled for November, but Island police chiefs moved the training to the spring amid COVID-19 concerns.
The Martha’s Vineyard Diversity Coalition received a $25,000 grant to fully fund the training sessions, which were prompted by the recent spate of tragic African American killings during police procedures across the country.
The grant comprises $17,000 from the Martha’s Vineyard Community Foundation, $7,000 from the Martha’s Vineyard Social Justice Leadership Foundation, and $1,000 from the Social Action Committee of the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center.
“Early on in the process, the Martha’s Vineyard Social Justice Leadership Foundation committed to supporting the initiative, and has since agreed to fund the remaining balance of the training for the 70-plus Island police officers,” Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee said in a press release about the training. “With this training, and along with some introspective analysis of our enforcement activities, we feel this will put our Island police officers at the forefront of the commonwealth’s law enforcement community. We sincerely thank the [foundation] for its support with this noble effort.”
Speaking to The Times by phone, McNamee said Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Principal Sara Dingledy generously offered Island police use of the high school for the training.
“We all need to acknowledge that we have these biases,” Aquinnah Police Chief Randhi Belain said. “In our line of law enforcement, we need to acknowledge that, but still do our jobs with keeping everybody’s race, sexuality, and all that in mind, and not let our biases lead us down a road that it shouldn’t. We need to treat everyone with equality no matter who they are.”
West Tisbury Police Chief Matt Mincone said Island police departments are gathering statistics on traffic stops, arrests, and other metrics to better understand how policing is being conducted on Martha’s Vineyard. “It’s about keeping our eyes and ears open to what we need to actually know and study within ourselves to make sure we’re doing the best job for everybody,” Mincone said.
Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake, who is an executive committee member of the Martha’s Vineyard chapter of the NAACP, told The Times this training is more interactive than other implicit and unconscious bias training the department has had in the past. He added it was important because it will go beyond other required training. “I really feel like this is going to refresh the things we’ve learned in the past about unconscious bias,” Blake said.