Gardner Police Chief Jim Pruetting (L) and Spring Hill Police Chief, Richard Mann recently attended a two day advisory board training session. Photo courtesy of Johnson County Sheriff’s Department

Area officials recently attended a two day Community Advisory Board training session which brought together 25 citizens from the African American Community and local law enforcement executives in a session led by Dr. Lorie Fridell of the University of South Florida.
The Gardner community was represented by Jim Pruetting, police chief, and Cheryl Harrison-Lee, city administrator. Spring Hill was represented by Richard Mann, police chief.
Pruetting said he found the training excellent.
“Although joint police/community discussions on race and policing communities of color often turn to finger pointing and little progress toward a mutual understanding of the issues, the trainer did an excellent job of educating the group on the topic of biases and how they impact the police/community relationship,” Pruetting said. “That led to some very candid discussion on the key issues facing police departments across the country and how we can build on the positive relationships that most Johnson County departments have with their communities to avoid the problems other communities are having.
“Although I’ve yet to see any issues in Gardner with the relationship our police department has with members of the minority community, I am always mindful of how quickly that can change, particularly with the national dialogue painting the police in such a negative light,” Pruetting continued.
Mann echoed some of Pruetting’s sentiments and agreed the training was good.
“The fair and impartial police training was very beneficial to me and will be for the Spring Hill Police department he said. “The training recognized that all individuals have biases, but knowing that these biases should not be based off of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, creed, socioeconomic status, etc., to me, is the key to fair and impartial policing for all citizens involving law enforcement, but also for us as individuals and how we treat each other.”
Mann said the training offered a good opportunity to network, and he looked forward to future gatherings with the NAACP and Johnson County law enforcement agencies.
The March session brought representatives together to discuss law enforcement policy, practice, related technology and decision making, and how they are perceived, understood and experienced by community members, especially minorities.
The second day of training, led by Dr. Lorie Fridell of the University of South Florida, focused on understanding explicit and implicit bias and how bias can appear in everyday life and in policing.  The two-day session encouraged real conversations about the things that matter in local communities, with a goal of developing a common understanding of issues experienced by community members with law enforcement, and a platform of action for maintaining healthy relations moving forward.
“I’m working with the KLETC to get the trainer, Dr. Lori Fridell, back for a ‘train the trainer’ course so that all of my officers can get thetraining,” Pruetting said. “I’m confident I can get that done in 2016.”
The March training session was the most recent of five similar sessions which were organized and financially supported by the Kansas African American Affairs Commission and the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center.  Similar sessions have been held in Shawnee County, Sedgwick County, Wyandotte County, and the Kansas Law.