TAYLOR — In an era when conflicts between the public and law enforcement officials too often explode across newspapers, social media and television, the city is taking steps through continuing education to maintain its level of police service, while simultaneously serving a diverse community.
Taylor police recently took a course, “Professional and Customer Service for Government Personnel: The First Step Towards Delivering Constitutional, Fair and Impartial Service to the Public,” taught by Joseph Thomas Jr., president of JET Consulting Inc.
“We want to emphasize that we are being proactive, not reactive,” Mayor Rick Sollars said. “We’ve all seen the conflicts between the public and law enforcement officials across the country. I’m a big believer in ongoing professional development and training.
“Improved guidance and instruction may not avoid every confrontation, especially in law enforcement, but certain techniques can help our officers deal with the rigors of the job, and make certain that all citizens are being treated fairly and professionally.”
Thomas is a veteran law enforcement official with experience across the globe – and is no stranger to law enforcement officials in the region.
“Dr. Thomas has been instructing this type of proactive training for decades,” Police Chief Mary Sclabassi said. “I actually attended his training course in the past and found it to be excellent. Having my entire department go through this training is very timely, in light of what has been going on across the country.”
The course focuses on making professional and personal adjustments in the way agencies provide police services to meet the expectations of today’s increasingly diverse society. The course attempts to separate and fully understand personal beliefs and values and their resulting actions – which may actually stand in the way of an incident being handled professionally and fairly.
Much of the training pinpointed the moral and ethical “blue line” of good and right vs. the “blue curtain” of protecting officers when exposing bad and wrong behavior.
“The focus of the training was cultural diversity, constitutional law and customer service all wrapped into one dynamic eight-hour class,” Sclabassi said. “This training was implemented now to make sure we are providing outstanding services to our community as well as being proactive in light of what has been transpiring throughout the country.
”Our officers had positive responses to the training and I’m confident the department will implement the lessons learned.”
Training in diversity is important in the community, and not just from a racial standpoint, officials said. As much as race, education and poverty often result in social unrest.
Over 16 percent of Taylor’s 62,331 population are African Americans, and residents of Asian and mixed-race descent push the non-Caucasian percentage of the total population near 20 percent.
Forty-seven percent of household incomes in the community make less than $40,000 annually, underscored by the more than 5,000 of the nearly 7,000 students in the Taylor School District who qualify for the free or reduced lunch programs.
Thomas is no stranger to bridging such gaps. He served as a member of Jackson Police Department, advancing to acting lieutenant of the Investigative Unit, before serving as the city of Albion’s chief of Public Safety and the city of Southfield’s police chief (where he is Oakland County’s third longest serving law enforcement executive in history).
He also served as interim chief in the city of Inkster, working with a transition team after a highly publicized misuse of force incident led to an administrative changeover.
On a world scale, Thomas served as deputy director of Training in support of the Palestinian Authority Security Sector Transformation program and was responsible for educational initiatives of the Mobile Training Teams in the West Bank and Jordan; and helped both the U.S. Department of State/International Narcotics and Law Enforcement and DynCorp International with quality of service programs.
He was selected by the U.S. State Department to serve two tours of duty in Iraq as senior police adviser (where he was presented an Outstanding Service Award by the Iraqi government) and served as U.S. Liaison to the General Directorate of Training and Qualification and led a team that helped rewrite the 244-hour basic curriculum for the Federal Investigation Training Center, which is modeled after the FBI Academy.