Sensitivity Training May Be Available to Officers

Training designed to help officers become more sensitive to the needs of the people they serve may soon be available to both Washington police officers and St. Landry Parish sheriff’s deputies.

Capt. Eddy Thibodeaux, training officer of the sheriff’s department is coordinating the effort with the encouragement of the mayor’s office and Washington Police Chief Ronelle “Bruce” Broussard.

Thibodeaux said that when town officials asked him about the availability of such a course he recognized that it would be good for his department as well and began looking for course matter. He has the certification to present the course.

The action comes after the Town Council heard complaints at its March 19 meeting that Washington officers have used excessive force in making arrests and are targeting residents of the area known as “the Bottom.”

Mayor Joseph Pitre suggested at the meeting that it would be appropriate for an impartial third party to investigate the complaints, but a motion by councilman Bobby Ledet for such an investigation failed. Ledet and Krandall Pijou voted for the motion. Gary Wilson voted against, and Mona Wilson abstained. Laura Allegood did not attend the meeting.

Mary Ann Lavergne, speaking for residents, charged that police officers who are new to the community “need to get to know the people before you stereotype them.”

Chief Broussard said that he “will continue to enforce the law and keep the people of Washington safe,” but that he supports any training “that will help my officers do their job and help them and the people they serve better understand each other.”

Sensitivity training, sometimes called multicultural training, has become standard procedure for many police agencies. It aims to help officers understand the diverse communities they serve, and is often coupled with a program to help people in the community understand the challenges faced by officers.

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