Police cadets explore black, hispanic, gay communities - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Police cadets explore black, hispanic, gay communities

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Chattanooga Police Dept cadets in their training session Thursday. Photo by Dan Kennedy/WRCBtv.com Chattanooga Police Dept cadets in their training session Thursday. Photo by Dan Kennedy/WRCBtv.com

UPDATE: The latest class of cadets coming through the Chattanooga Police Department has one more task before earning their badges next week.

The group will present their findings and lessons learned to the public Thursday afternoon about their recent community immersion project.

The cadets were divided into three groups to study three different local communities: African American, Hispanic and LGBT. They spent more than 50 hours interviewing community members, making a video and getting off-camera comments with community leaders and members.

"The main thing that we need to do is learn how to be servants to the community. And by being servants to the community, we'll be able to do our job that much better and that's what we're here for," Cadet Blake Ketron said.

Their objectives were to learn, experience and teach others about Chattanooga's culture.

They'll deliver a series of presentations about the immersion project Thursday at 1 p.m. at Chattanooga State Humanities Auditorium. The mayor and police chief are scheduled to speak and it should last several hours.

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In Chattanooga, police hope a new program designed for cadets will improve communication between police and minorities. It's called "community immersion" and its a program Fred Fletcher brought with him from Austin, Texas. The 25 cadets got their assignments Thursday and learned which communities they'll be assigned.

The department is grouping the cadets in roughly three groups of eight. One group will study the black community; another will study the Hispanic community; and the final group will study the LGBT community.

"We chose those because those are the community members who have historically been the most disenfranchised and marginalized," said Chief Fred Fletcher. "Go out and find what's behind the face, what's behind the home, what's behind the call and learn what makes each person unique and what gives each person value."

The program requires each cadet to reach out to folks in their assigned areas, in both their free time and the 56 hours set aside.

Cadet Nicholas Wright has lived in Soddy Daisy his entire life but admits there's areas he'll soon patrol that are unfamiliar territory.

"This is my city and if I was gonna be a police officer anywhere, it really needs to be here," said Wright. "This area is really a hodge-podge of different cultures, different believes and different attitudes."

And while the goals is to explore diversity, there's a good amount in this very classroom. One cadet had a scholarship to Yale, another speaks five languages, and one guy even runs a sub-4 minute mile. It's a diverse family soon to be integrated with a diverse community.

"We are no longer teaching cadets about the community, they are teaching themselves and they are learning from the community and then they are coming back and teaching us what they learned," said Fletcher.

At CPD, community immersion is the new pre-requisite to a badge. The program will end in December when the cadets will give a public presentation of what they learned.

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