Police Departments Literally Are Staging Conflict. But Will It Help?

Community leaders have called on police departments to come up with new training procedures that help address the problems of police brutality and racial bias. In response, some police departments are using theater and role-playing exercises that help officers understand their unconscious biases.

[DIGEST: The Hill, New York Post, Atlantic Magazine, MSNBC, NPR]

A few weeks ago, the largest police department in the country raised the curtain on their new sensitivity training. The New York City police recruits performed a play called Anne & Emmett.

The play involves an imaginary conversation between two teenagers who faced racial prejudice: Anne Frank, whose family hid from Nazis and later died in a German concentration camp, and Emmett Till, an African-American murdered at the age of 14 for allegedly flirting with white women. An all-white jury acquitted Till’s killers.

Police work usually doesn’t involve live theater. But as police departments face increasing pressure to demonstrate they are unbiased, that’s changing. Some departments are attempting to use theater as a tool to teach cultural sensitivity and to develop empathy towards diverse communities.

Second Nexus
Production still of Anne & Emmett at the New York City Police Academy. Credit: Source.

Calls For Creative Solutions

Studies demonstrate that racial bias in law enforcement and police misconduct are systemic problems. A Department of Justice report revealed that 84 percent of police officers have seen

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