SUNY Cortland University Police officer Amanda Wasson is among a select group who soon will train officers and administrators across the SUNY campuses to be aware of bias and ensure that it does not affect their interactions with the public.
She attended a recent federal “training the trainers” program on Fair and Impartial Policing (FIP) as she and 23 officers from other SUNY colleges prepare to transform the system’s approach to campus law enforcement.
In mid-January Wasson and the other officers completed their three days of training in Syracuse, N.Y. The SUNY training session was led by Lt. Col. JoAnn D. Johnson from the Illinois State Police Division of Internal Investigation and Anna Laszlo, managing partner and chief operating officer of Fair and Impartial Policing LLC.
The FIP training is specifically designed to enhance officers’ understanding of how bias — and especially implicit or unconscious bias — can impact policing and how to apply techniques to prevent that from happening.
The officers soon will begin working with colleagues on campus and regionally throughout 2016.
“Officer Wasson will be teaching all of our officers here at SUNY Cortland and she will be assisting other University Police Departments with their training as well,” said Mark T. DePaull, assistant chief of police with SUNY Cortland’s University Police Department.
“Having an officer trained to instruct this program will keep our department on the cutting edge of fair and impartial policing,” he said. “The training will allow us to strengthen our relationship with the campus community and it will be an integral part of our community policing philosophy.”
Wasson, on being among the chosen few of 600 law enforcement officers in the university system, noted, “I have a feeling it was because I have an upbeat personality and they figured I would be a good fit.”
A graduate from the Elmira Police Academy, Wasson joined the campus’ police force in 2011 and serves on the Bike Patrol Unit. Certified as a police instructor and a police firearms instructor, she also received specialized training on sexual assault investigations.
SUNY with its 460,000 students is the largest university system in the country to provide the training at scale. FIP clients span the country and primarily include municipal police departments, including those in Baltimore, Ferguson, Mo., Philadelphia and Sanford, Fla.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors,” said State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “We are proud to bring the Fair and Impartial Policing program to SUNY and to ensure that the officers keeping our campuses safe and secure have access to the newest and most efficient tools, training, and best practices.”
“By acknowledging the unconscious bias that is naturally instilled in all of us, police officers are able to assess situations and individuals as they find them and not as they might anticipate them to be,” explained University Police Commissioner Paul Berger.
“This training will help us continue to build trust and strengthen our police force in partnership with campus leadership and local law enforcement agencies,” Berger said.
“This program addresses biased policing and the overwhelming number of well-intentioned police in this country who aspire to fair and impartial policing, but who are human like the rest of us,” noted Gerald W. Schoenle, Jr., president of the SUNY Police Chiefs Association.
SUNY’s University Police provides leadership and support for the police departments on SUNY campuses across New York State. In 1998, the legal status of SUNY officers was changed to “police officer,” granting them the same training and law enforcement capabilities as municipal police. All SUNY departments are full partners in various state, regional, and local crime information sharing and investigative task forces.