Lincoln Police Officer Luke Bonkiewicz responded Monday to a report by the ACLU of Nebraska that highlighted the need for more anti-bias training for law enforcement officers.
Disparity in traffic stops and police interactions in the state and in Lincoln exist, he said, but he wants people to understand that Lincoln's police department is working to improve.
The ACLU report said higher percentages of black, Latino and Native drivers are searched and arrested in Lincoln than white drivers after traffic stops. And the report said 94 of 508 Lincoln Police Department employees got specific anti-bias training in 2017.
Bonkiewicz said in 2018, 323 LPD sworn officers completed anti-bias training, and in 2017, 489 LPD sworn and non-sworn employees completed that training.
The ACLU report author and legal and policy counsel Rose Godinez said Monday that training in cultural competency and diversity awareness, while good, does not qualify as specific anti-bias training by a certified trainer that allows officers to learn about individual biases on age, national origin and race.
Traffic stops that appear to be based on racial profiling continue to happen, and even increase, in Nebraska, Godinez said.
"That's why the training that has been done has not been enough, which is why we're calling for 100 percent participation in anti-bias training," she said.
And that training should include testing, she said.
Bonkiewicz said the ACLU’s request for information survey letter was broad, asking for “any document reflecting the total number of trained employees relating to anti-bias conduct.”
"Nonetheless," he said, "the ACLU’s point about the training being conducted by a trainer with the specific intent to help address individual biases is well taken."
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Bonkiewicz said the Lincoln Police Department is accredited with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, so it has to do a variety of anti-bias training every year. Its training is wider than just racial profiling, he said.
For example, the department in 2017 had training in fair and impartial policing, conducted by an LPD captain and officer; unbiased policing, cultural awareness and interacting with people with disabilities at the recruit academy; professional ethics and awareness; diversity at a civil rights conference; hate crimes and bias-motivated crimes at the recruit academy.
In other years, there's been cultural training on Muslim refugees, and on people with autism, Down syndrome, disabilities and dementia, and those who have hearing impairments.
That training, whether or not by certified trainers, has helped LPD address its own biases, he said.
"Recruits have expressed how their eyes have been opened after they complete our cultural awareness training and subsequent field trip to the various cultural centers in Lincoln," he said. "The specific purpose may not have been to directly examine their own biases, but that certainly occurred, and continues to occur in many trainings."
In 2018, Bonkiewicz said, the department had training by PFLAG representatives on how it could better serve members of the LGBTQ members of the Lincoln community. It has also had people from the Malone Center and the deaf community come and talk.
"We know that our community is made up of many different segments and we want to learn about each of those different segments, whatever cultural practices they might have so we can be sensitive to those so ... we can better respect them, so we can better serve them," he said.
In his view, he said, anti-bias conduct can mean a lot of different things.
Still, he said, if there is a local or national company, group, or person that specializes in precisely what the ACLU is asking for, LPD is certainly open to considering what training and services the department might offer.