Biloxi Police Train For Black Spring Break

Cultural diversity is a routine subject in the Biloxi Police Department's in-service training program.

But this year's workshop was specifically scheduled to take place just before Black Spring Break.

Some 35 officers attended a four hour session Friday morning. They talked about things like prejudice, stereotyping and stress relief.

The training promotes better understanding and awareness about cultural differences. Officers openly discussed things like discrimination and stereotypes. They talked about the ugliness aimed at African-Americans and the unfair treatment of police officers, who are often characterized as "the bad guys".

"But because it's a group of blacks, the coast has not accepted that yet. Am I wrong?"

Workshop trainer, David Sanderson, got the discussion started.

Police officers talked frankly about discrimination and the lack of communication that can often lead to trouble in their line of work.

Sanderson has been teaching what he calls "human relations awareness" for five years.

"Make other police officers aware, aware of the situation, aware of their prejudices. And their stereotypes. And not to act out on those."

A showing of the Los Angeles Rodney King police beating video sparked plenty of discussion and reaction.

"We can't just sit here and focus on, who cares what color they were. I talk to 50 people a day. Some happen to be white. Some happen to be black."

The training helped officers understand the thinking and behavior behind prejudice and stereotypes. Black Spring Break will offer these officers an opportunity to use the training.

"There's a lot of miscommunication. A lot of misconceptions. A lot of stereotypes that we face from day to day that this has helped to shed some light on," said officer Anthony Proctor.

Many of these officers had some experience with last year's Black Spring Break. They also heard stories and rumors that followed the event.

"But it wasn't just the media. But it was so and so told so and so who wasn't even in town that weekend," said one officer.

Much of the training focused on feelings and communication. Or, in many cases, a lack of communication.

"The single greatest thing that probably causes problems is lack of communication. Once you get people communicating, whether they're police officers or from any other field, you've gone a long way toward solving any problems that you have," said officer Gerald Forbes.