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New immersive training program by Longueuil police deemed a success

Click to play video: 'Longueuil police department seeks to reconnect with the community'
Longueuil police department seeks to reconnect with the community
WATCH: A select group of police officers spent five weeks immersed in the neighbourhoods they serve. Global's Brayden Jagger Haines reports – Jan 21, 2020

In October, Longueuil police launched a five-week intensive, immersive training program.

That program, they say, has proven to be a success.

Thirty officers volunteered to take part in the first-of-its-kind exercise, which aims to bridge the gap between police and the community.

Leaving the gun and uniform at home, officers got the chance to bond and interact with different cultures, community groups and families in their jurisdictions.

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“No gun, no uniform, to be able to connect without obstacle, human to human,” Police Chief Fady Dagher said, describing the exercise’s objectives.

The unique training experience is the brainchild and source of pride for Dagher, who said the initiative gives his officers the time and practice to better know the people they work for.

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“When they go on a 911 call, they don’t have time,” Dagher said. “It goes by so fast. It’s not the time to connect with the community.”

With a police force of 650 officers, fewer than 10 per cent of them are of a visible minority.

Dagher acknowledges those numbers are low and wants to improve on that front, but hopes this initiative will help build a stronger relationship between police and their communities.

“We have our own culture in the force,” Dagher explained. “This training is helping us to be able to open our culture and to share with the other cultures of the community.”

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Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), a local human rights group, is commending the immersive program, saying the training should be learned and spread throughout all of the police forces.

“This is the kind of thing we have always said police officers anywhere should do,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi.

“It’s about knowing the community and working with the community and gaining the community trust.”

Click to play video: 'Longueuil police reaching out to the community'
Longueuil police reaching out to the community

Niemi says learning the ability to work in a multicultural, multiracial, diverse municipality is essential to police work.

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Understanding the underlying biases while on duty and how to counteract them will help police on duty, Niemi said.

‘When a police officer doesn’t know who we’re dealing with beyond what one sees beyond the stereotype, beyond the misunderstandings,” Niemi explained, “the police officer can not be effective.”

Dagher says the first five-week course was so effective that a second one is scheduled in April.

Dagher hopes to have two training programs a year. He expects to have all of his officers to have undergone the program within the next five years.

“All of my police officers will have gone through the immersion program and the ones who went will go again,” Dagher said, “because maybe in 2030 they might face new challenges.”

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