In an effort to further develop positive relationships among citizens and local law enforcement, NOVA Police and the Prince William County Police Department partnered to host a free community-relations training session, “Safe Passage Home: Simulations and Discussion of Citizen-Police Interactions.” The event was held on September 9 at the Woodbridge Campus’ Lakeside Theatre.
Members of the community, along with NOVA students, faculty and staff attended the event to openly discuss the realities of police and citizen interactions. NOVA Police Lt. John Weinstein and Prince William Police Sgt. Ben Grantham provided an in-depth analysis of communication issues through training sessions and live simulations of traffic stops.
“As officers, we want to be the people that change lives for the better, not for the worse. That’s why we became police officers in the first place,” said Grantham. “We want to hear what our local community feels when they see us. The more interaction we have with citizens, the more it helps us. We are all a part of the same community.”
Weinstein said the traffic stop is one of the most common interactions people encounter with law enforcement, yet more officers are killed while conducting them than any other police activity. Because of this, citizens and police officers can have diverging mindsets and assumptions based on the lack of awareness or understanding of each other’s perspectives.
“When we are involved with a traffic stop, we don’t know what to expect. Every situation is unique, and as officers, we have to be vigilant,” said Weinstein. “Knowing your rights is a part of being an informed citizen.”
During a moderated question and answer segment, citizens posed questions related to police brutality and racial profiling. Weinstein and Grantham simulated a confrontational versus a non-confrontational traffic stop and demonstrated a series of steps used by officers when engaging with the public. Officers are also required to participate in effective communication training sessions on topics related to cultural diversity, conflict resolution and dealing with disabled individuals. The Prince William County Police Department encourages citizens to participate in their Citizen Police Academy, a 10-week program that offers a greater awareness and appreciation of the challenges and decisions faced by officers. Locals can also learn about NOVA Police and Prince William County Police through their ride-along programs.
“Safe Passage Home: Simulations and Discussion of Citizen-Police Interactions” was sponsored by NOVA’s Woodbridge Campus, NOVA Police, Prince William County Police Department and the Prince William County Public Schools’ Education Foundation SPARK (Supporting Partnerships and Resources for Kids). For additional information on Prince William County Police Department or NOVA Police, visit their websites.