In 2002-2004, the Oxnard Police Department entered into an agreement with the Center for Cross Cultural Competence to develop a Cultural Competency curriculum for the Oxnard Police Department. The timetable for the project was thirty (30) months and the goals for the project included the development of three (3) manuals (Curriculum, Teacher's manual, Training manual) and a 24-hour, P.O.S.T. approved curriculum that sworn and civilian employees would attend along with members of the community. The final curriculum, titled From Partnership to Relationship: Oxnard Community Police Initiative, covered the following areas:
1. What is Race? 2. What is Institutional Racism? 3. The Contradictory Nature of a Paramilitary Police Officer 4. The Survival Aspect of Police Culture 5. Community Engagement 6. Community-Police Walkabout 7. Police-Community InterfaceThe training, developed and instructed by Dr. Erycene Piper Mandy PhD., a cultural anthropologist, was met with generally favorable reviews and the department was able to train approx. 100 employees. Unfortunately, the program did not have follow-up mechanisms in place to ensure that the vision behind the training was engrained into the culture of the organization over the coming years.
In 2007, Harry Cortez, a long-time Oxnard resident and a member of the Chief's Advisory Board, began talking with Assistant Chief Whitney about the possibility of developing additional curriculum that might attempt to bridge some of the perceived gaps that he believed were developing between the community and the police department. They quickly contacted Peter Martinez, a long-time Oxnard resident and Ventura County Deputy Probation Officer who is an expert on cultural proficiency and the history of police-community relations within the city of Oxnard. They decided to get a group of stakeholders together to explore the possibility of developing Cultural Proficiency curriculum for the Oxnard Police Department.
We began having bi-weekly meetings in November of 2007 to brainstorm and talk about where we envisioned this program taking us. Participants in the Cultural Proficiency program have included: Harry Cortez, Peter Martinez, Barbara Marquez O'Neil, Assistant Chief Scott Whitney, Assistant Chief Jason Benites, Commander Eric S. Sonstegard, Commander Eduardo Miranda, Sergeant Tim Lumas, Sergeant Alex Rangel, Senior Officer Felice Thompson, Senior Officer Steve Ramirez, Senior Officer Mike Marostica, Officer Richard Marquez, Officer Rachel Burr, Officer Lucy Buttell, Officer Brian Ellison, Officer Ohad Katzman, Officer Hector Balderrama, VCSO Captain Mike Aranda, Deputy District Attorney Gilbert Romero, Jessica Arciniega, and Tomas Hernandez.
During one of our first meetings, Peter brought a book titled Cultural Proficiency: A Manual for School Leaders by Dr. Randall B. Lindsey. The book would eventually become the framework for our curriculum. In March of 2008, we began working closely with Dr. Lindsey and Dr. Kikanza Nuri-Robins to integrate the lessons from Dr. Lindsey's book. We discussed our goals and objectives and they shared their vision of developing a curriculum for the law enforcement community much like the one they had helped to develop for the educational field. Some of the desired outcomes of our curriculum were identified that first meeting and were as follows:
1. The community will have more confidence that OXPD is sensitive to cultural issues. 2. To be able to contextualize past problems and how things have improved. 3. Overcoming prior training (e.g., diversity, cultural sensitivity, community-based policing). 4. Balancing false claims of discrimination and racism. 5. Juxtaposing racism vs. privilege and entitlement.The first Cultural Proficiency training class was taught to Oxnard Police Department personnel on September 16, 2009. Through February of 2013, Fifteen (15) classes have been taught to Oxnard Police Department personnel and over three-hundred (300) people have attended the training.
Cultural-based questions have been integrated into all department hiring and promotional processes.
A 20-minute Cultural Proficiency video was produced and shown to many of the early classes.
A community survey was created and implemented to reach out to all neighborhoods in the city.
Information sheets on various holiday traditions were produced and distributed to department personnel.
Our vehicle tow and fee procedures were reviewed and changed.
Four (4) Oxnard P.D. personnel attended local Mixteco language classes.
Oxnard P.D. personnel have attended the Cultural Proficiency Institute the last four (4) years.
What is Cultural Proficiency?
Cultural Proficiency is a way of being that enables both individuals and organizations to respond effectively to people who differ from them. It is an approach to addressing diversity issues that goes beyond political correctness. It is an inside-out approach that focuses on those who are insiders in law enforcement, encouraging them to reflect on their own individual understandings and values. The Cultural Proficiency model surprises many people who expect a diversity program to teach them about other people, not about themselves.
Culture is defined broadly to include all shared characteristics of human description, including age, gender, geography, ancestry, language, history, sexual orientation, and physical ability, as well as occupation and affiliations.
Culturally proficient law enforcement professionals demonstrate an understanding of the variety of diverse cultures each person may experience in the workplace. Although they accept that they will not necessarily have intimate knowledge about each of the cultures represented in the police department or the community they serve, they recognize their need to continuously learn more. They develop a conscious awareness of the culture of their department and community and they understand that each has a powerful influence on their co-workers, supervisors, managers, and community members.
Building Cultural Proficiency requires informed and dedicated employees and supervisors, committed and involved leadership, and time. Employees cannot be sent to one or two days of training and be expected to return with solutions to all the equity issues in the workplace and the community. The transformation to Cultural Proficiency requires time to think, reflect, assess, decide, and change.
Why has the Oxnard Police Department developed a Cultural Proficiency program?
Through both legal mandate and in the interest of maintaining technical proficiencies, we as law enforcement professionals spend a considerable amount of time training in the areas of firearms, defensive tactics, driving, and less-lethal weaponry. We spend considerably less time focusing on inter-personal communications and identifying and understanding the differing cultures around us. It is a skill set that peace officers use vastly more on a day-to-day basis than the aforementioned “perishable” skills.
We work in a tremendously diverse community which has virtually every ethnic, religious, and socio-economic class represented. Likewise, our workplace of 400 employees encompasses a wide spectrum of cultures. To avoid making an issue of the differences manifested among our peers and community members is the virtual definition of “cultural blindness.”
The Oxnard Police Department has developed a Cultural Proficiency program to help our employees, and in turn the organization, to be better equipped to recognize and respect the differences in each of us. The Oxnard Police Department has not been immune to racial, sexual, and religious intolerance in its past and we want to ensure that we recognize that and evolve towards a culturally proficient organization. We want to be a model for other law enforcement agencies.
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