KPD Recruits Receive Cultural Awareness Training

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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KPD Recruits Receive Cultural Awareness Training

Posted: 06/09/2017
The City of Knoxville’s Police Advisory and Review Committee (PARC) conducted a Cultural Competency and Awareness Training workshop for new Knoxville Police Department recruits on May 31 at the Phil E. Keith Training Center. 
PARC Director Clarence L. Vaughn III began the workshop by speaking on cultural competency and understanding bias. 

“We want officers to know how to interact with people from different backgrounds and acknowledge the unconscious biases that may negatively affect those interactions,” Vaughn said. 

The training workshop featured with a panel presentation by representatives of the Latino and Hispanic, African-American, Muslim, LGBTQ and millennial communities, as well as speakers on perspectives and issues pertaining to older adults and elder abuse, mental health, immigrants and refugees. 

Panelist Drost Kokoye – an activist, organizer and Muslim – explained that Friday is the holy day in Islam when Muslims gather at mosques to pray together. She also explained the purpose, the timing and the centering power of Muslims’ five-times-daily prayers. 

Panelist Patricia Robledo, a native of Colombia and the Business Liaison for the City of Knoxville, clarified the difference between Hispanic (of Spanish-speaking countries) and Latino (of a country in Latin America) and that neither is a designation of race but rather of language and culture. 

Presentations were followed by break-out discussions that allowed the future officers to ask questions and share their personal experiences. 
Diversity within the Knoxville Police Department allows officers to reflect the populations they serve. 

Officer Fredrick R. Kimber reports that the demographic makeup of the 2017 recruitment class started out with a diversity never before seen in KPD history: 31 white men, three black men, three Latino men, one Latina woman, and one white woman. 

And despite the loss of candidates who didn’t complete their Police Academy training, the final graduating class still will be among the most diverse, particularly in terms of Latino applicants. 
Lt. Tammy Debow said the Cultural Competence and Awareness Training’s speakers and breakout Q&A sessions are designed to compel recruits to consider perspectives – racial, religious, regional or age-based – they may have never considered before.

 “This class is designed to get recruits to think outside the box, to make them uncomfortable, and that’s a good thing!” Debow said. “They’re going to be faced with situations in the field, and not everybody has the same biases.”

Debow said the class – part of more than 1,000 hours of training recruits receive – is always a work in progress, changing in response to the recruits’ needs as well as the community’s. For instance, now that many of the KPD recruits are from the millennial generation, the next cultural competency workshop may instead have a speaker from an older generation. 

“Officers can’t be held accountable for what they don’t know,” said Avice Reid, Senior Director of Community Relations. “After the training, they are aware and better prepared to deal with situations in the different neighborhoods they’ll be working in.” 

PARC invites everyone to its quarterly meetings to learn about and share their concerns about the Knoxville Police Department. The next quarterly meeting is at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 27, in the Small Assembly Room of the City County Building. For additional information, visit