University of Iowa Police Building Coalitions

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In the fall semester of 2016, the University of Iowa Department of Public Safety and other area law enforcement officers participated in the first National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) Law Enforcement Communication Program offered on campus.  

The workshop was organized by UI NCBI Affiliate members and facilitated by Fabienne “Fae” Brooks, former chief of the Criminal Investigations Division in Seattle, and Guillermo Lopez, Jr., co-director of the NCBI Law Enforcement program. A total of 45 officers, dispatchers, and guards participated, including all four police chiefs from Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty and University Heights. These four-hour training sessions focused on teaching police officers about their implicit biases and how to practice an effective community policing response.

Sandra Webb, deputy director of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) within the U.S. Department of Justice, describes the program on the NCBI website as “…a program that recognizes the essential ingredient of community policing—building trust and mutual respect between law enforcement and the community. By strengthening communication with the community, more viable partnerships are able to form and flourish.”

During the evaluation, several of the officers said that this was the best diversity-focused training they had ever attended. Brooks, a workshop facilitator who has worked in law enforcement for 26 years, said the training is effective because of its inclusivity.

“This training is inclusive, and it doesn’t blame or point fingers at anyone,” says Brooks. “It acknowledges and celebrates all cultures, including law enforcement culture, and it allows for an experiential progression to difficult discussions around race and diversity.”

This workshop would not have been possible without Scott Beckner, assistant vice president and director of the UI Department of Public Safety. Beckner has made creating a community policing culture on campus his top priority since he took his post in July 2016. During his first few months, Beckner has encouraged his staff to attend diversity trainings such as NCBI, BUILD, and LGBTQ Safe Zone. Members of the department are encouraged and supported in pursuing their certificates, and two officers have already earned their BUILD certificates by participating in the required six training sessions.

Beckner says the NCBI Law Enforcement Communication training is just one of many steps the department plans to take in order to continue building skills and relationships to better serve the UI community.

In addition to encouraging officers to attend and complete these training programs, the UI Department of Public Safety held a series of Fair and Impartial Policing Training courses last fall. The training program, which was developed by the U.S. Department of Justice, emphasizes that even well-intentioned people have implicit biases that can influence their actions, that recognizing those biases is key in learning how to override them, and that policing based on biases can be unsafe, ineffective, and unjust.

The department is also in the early phases of developing a three-prong community policing program that identifies UI public safety officers to serve as liaisons to student organizations and residence halls on campus, give students the opportunity to learn about law enforcement through the student security officer program, and encourage officers to participate in student-oriented events, such as intramurals. These efforts will enable both students and officers to establish a relationship that supports meaningful communication and feedback. 

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The University of Iowa is an affiliate of the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI), a nonprofit leadership training organization based outside of Washington, D.C. Built on over 30 years of practice and research, NCBI programs enable leaders to develop skills in areas of prejudice reduction, violence prevention, conflict resolution, and coalition building.

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Here at the UI, we have built a coalition of more than 50 faculty, staff, and student trainers devoted to NCBI principles to develop skills and resources for campus inclusion and equity. One of the team’s primary functions is to offer workshops for campus and community members (all of which may be applied for credit in the BUILD certificate program):
  • Conflict and Controversial Issues
  • Building Effective Relationships Across Group Lines
  • Leadership for Equity and Inclusion

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diversity.uiowa.edu/unit/training