LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Understanding and respecting each other is as crucial now as it has ever been, and for law enforcement, it is a career requirement, according to the Michigan State Police.

MSP has now added Cultural Awareness and Diversity training to their curriculum to prepare future troopers for today’s world.

“This was an intentional addition to our training because we see the value in making sure our prospective troopers understand and have exposure to various cultures,” said. Capt. James Grady, commander of the MSP Training Division. “We pay very close attention to what our communities say they need from us. Policing as a profession has changed and we are adapting to better prepare the next generation of troopers.”

The first class to experience the new classes were the 138th Trooper Recruit School. In total, they got 16 hours of instructions and had some good, honest conversations, MSP said.

“When I’m talking about my Hispanic and Latinx cultures, I start with an overview, especially within the Midwest region,” said Cecilia Olivera, a Native American and Mexican American woman raised in Saginaw who spoke with recruits recently. “I want to encourage those participating to reflect on personal experiences and create an environment where questions can be answered. We covered police relations, immigration and racial disparities, as well as the impact of poverty with hopes of debunking some of the biases and misconceptions of rural and urban communities.”

For Tpr. Vincent Coakley, a member of the 138th Trooper Recruit School now assigned to the Lansing Post, the classes were beneficial.

“It allows me to think about potential conversation ice breakers and common phrases in different languages,” Trooper Coakley said. “How can I get someone to be more at ease with me? How can I be respectful to their culture? In some situations, a joke or even very direct eye contact may not be appropriate.” 

As a Black man, Trooper Coakley is aware he has the potential to make a positive impact with other Black men in the community.  

“I had a traffic stop and one of the men was so scared he was shaking,” said Trooper Coakley. “Once we spoke and he calmed down, he told me he would have been less worked up if he’d realized initially that I’m Black. He saw there was someone who looked like him, and it made a difference.” 

The next class of troopers will graduate Aug. 20, 2021 and MSP plans on expanding the series to include more groups of speakers.

“Every human deserves respect and understanding, and it starts with awareness and a desire to learn more about others,” said Grady.