UAPD participates in racial intelligence training 

Monica Nakashima, Contributing Writer

The University of Alabama Police Department participated in the Racial Intelligence Training & Enforcement (RITE) Academy on Sep. 2.

The event featured discussions led by the organization’s founder, Linda Webb, who has taught 20 officer courses and designed multiple “train-the-trainer” programs. 

RITE has trained over 500 police departments across the nation and, according to Webb, not one has had an “unnecessary, excessive use-of-force incident” since they have been equipped with these new emotional coping techniques. 

UAPD Chief of Police John Hooks attended the training, as did representatives from ten external police agencies.

Other college police departments including the University of Mississippi, Stillman College and institutions in the UA System were present, along with Alabama state police departments including Hoover, Tuscaloosa and Alabama Peace Officers Standards & Training Commission. 

The three-day course trained police department heads to equip their officers with strategies to combat implicit biases, increase self-awareness and take action when they see fellow officers targeting racial minority groups.

RITE began its campaign for police reform in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death in 2014. Webb began analyzing video clips that portrayed officers using excessive force and concluded that the officers’ emotional detachment was the common denominator.

“Officers don’t realize when they’re snapping,” Webb said. “They don’t realize that they’re showing up to work angry…[and witness abuses in the community] and get angrier and angrier, and then it’s like a ticking time bomb. [They] snap.”

Webb connected this phenomenon to the concept of “blockout mode,” a state in which severe aggression prevents officers from making logical decisions.

“You don’t hear, ‘I can’t breathe.’ You don’t hear, ‘You’re hurting him.’ When [an officer] is in that mode in such a fit of rage, you hear nothing,” Webb said. “That’s why we teach in this class to recognize blockout, when your partner’s going into blockout, and how to go in, grab your partner, and take action to stop that from happening.”

Hooks said he reached out to other local police departments to help boost cooperation within the forces and to create change.

“This is about us being able to make a true change in law enforcement,” Hooks said. “And hopefully, [to] take a stand and initiative as educators for a university police department to be able to see true change happen.”

He said the RITE training was not a reaction to recent calls for police reform following the death of George Floyd, but rather an area of focus since Ferguson.

“We had always had implicit bias and sensitivity training,” Hooks said. “But you can’t do enough. I think it’s important for us on this point to double down on that… to stay ahead of the game.”