As as part of a major internal makeover, more than half of Doral police personnel have already gone through mandatory workshops that equip their “hearts and minds.”
By the summer, the entire department will be trained.
“The idea is, you gotta change the way you look at things through your heart, so that you can make the right decision when those decisions arrive,” Lt. Carlos Arango said about the department’s revamp. “We are transforming not just the way we train, but the way we think. We are changing the entire culture here.”
Doral is one of several cities in the United States to implement the “Blue Courage” program in wake of Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. Miami Beach, Golden Beach and Hollywood police departments have also signed up. The goal is to mend strained relations with communities that have been smoldering for years over police-involved shootings and widespread gun violence.
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“What we’ve lost in law enforcement is trust in the community,” Arango said. “Right now, it’s very anti-cop. We have to win that trust back. This program gives us a pretty incredible opportunity of transforming the way we think in the police world.”
Apart from officers’ standardized trainings, the Blue Courage workshops are designed to encourage generosity, empathy, concern, mindfulness and compassion for the community.
The series of workshops range from four to six hours, one day a month, over six to 12 months.
“Police work has always been very stat oriented. But when it comes to the good stuff, there’s no way to quantify it.
Neighborhood Resource Officer Luis Hernandez
Topics include how to speak to people, how to hold true to certain values, integrity, kindness.
“Everything you do and say is rooted in the heart,” Arango said. “So by changing our hearts we’ll be able to transform an ordinary police force.”
Capt. Fatima Nuñez said the program has “refreshed her as a human being.”
“It’s like going back to your first day and putting that uniform on. That pride that you felt back then is amazing, and because of this training it’s what we feel now, again,” she said. “As a cop you see bad things out there all the time, but now we are learning how to deal with it and handle it. It has become personal.”
According to Arango, police higher-ups have already seen a big shift in department and are seeing positive results.
For example, one officer encountered a homeless person suffering from Huntington’s disease, a condition that severely impedes a person’s ability to speak and restricts muscle control. The officer stopped to check on the welfare of the man and quickly compiled a list of available shelters, dialed one number, then another, until finally finding shelter for him.
“While someone else may have taken pity on the man, Officer Harvey took action. She drove the homeless man to the shelter, introduced him to the staff, and reassured him he would be safe,” Arango said.
In another recent circumstance, three police officers gave food to a homeless man, drove him to his destination and gave him money for his next meal.
Neighborhood Resource Officer Luis Martinez said everything that was done were pieces put together by individuals that attended Blue Courage.
“It’s not about ‘let me give you a ticket to slow down.’ It’s about ‘Where are you going? What’s going on?’ We talk to them,” Martinez said. “Police work has always been very stat oriented. But when it comes to the good stuff, there’s no way to quantify it. Blue Courage gives us the permission to do these things, to go the extra mile. Telling us that it is encouraged to go out there and just do something good.”