Our country has witnessed horrific cases of bodily harm against minorities by police officers. One determinant to these cases could be that police officers lack self-awareness and are not culturally competent.

When law enforcement officers are culturally competent, they are aware of their biases, behaviors, assumptions and prejudices. They treat everyone with respect and dignity, regardless of their race or ethnic background. It is important that law enforcement officers working as public servants have a heightened sense of self-awareness because their reactions to conflict involving people of color could result in grave consequences.

We, as constituents of North Carolina, recommend that North Carolina law enforcement have a required cultural competence and self-awareness course added to their existing mandated in-service training program. The current 2021-2022 North Carolina Justice Academy requires all law enforcement officers to attend a minimum of 24 hours of in-service training annually. A variety of courses are offered, but none place an emphasis on serving minority populations. Police officers come in contact with different races and cultures. The implementation of a cultural competency course would benefit both the officers as well as the minority populations they encounter.

Cultural competence is the ability to understand, appreciate and interact with people from cultures or belief systems different from one’s own. The administration of this course would allow police officers to gain a better understanding of the perspective of those in the community. The course would promote self-reflection and self-awareness as it pertains to their behavior and how they respond to certain situations.

During their self-reflection, they can acknowledge the origins of their learned behavior and mentality, and the necessary steps to change them. It would be greatly appreciated and highly recommended if the director of N.C. Justice Academy, Trevor Allen, would consider adding a cultural competency and self-awareness course for the betterment of our community.

Sade J. Curmon-Ward, Emilee Schiappa, Erika Scott and Ciera Odeseye

Greenville

The authors are social work students at East Carolina University.