Mathew Horace was a policeman in Arlington, Virginia before he joined the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He is a twenty-eight-year veteran of law enforcement in federal, state and local police capacities and has worked internationally.
He has trained thousands of police and has an impressive history of involvement in various law enforcement activities.
His work, The Black and the Blue traces through the history of racism in police forces, and describes the memes which underpin its existence. Most importantly, he describes ways to undercut those memes-ways to bring the police closer to the community.
At times, it is a rough read. There are incredible stories of police misdeeds, poor hiring practices, and deficient training. Racism can be behind those problems, but often it is implicit bias, an unrecognized discriminatory attitude that influences behavior.
Mathew Horace worked with numerous law enforcement representatives connected with efforts to improve police recruitment, hiring and training practices. From his myriad experiences, he makes thoughtful and salient recommendations for what should be done. Police agencies need to conduct screening for implicit bias levels and periodic psychological and physical assessment of cops. Additionally, police officers should receive training with use-of-force scenarios based on de-escalation techniques.
Recommended for law enforcement personnel and anyone interested in improving police/community relations. We are grateful for his interview, in Feb.18, 2019, which follows.
32nd Avenue Books: Should there be any component to police training that educates police to behave differently toward people of different races?
Matthew Horace: All police departments should receive cultural sensitivity training. This should be in conjunction with anti-bias and implicit bias training. The idea is to recognize that we all have implicit biases but they need to be recognized and we need to be trained as to how to identify them, understand them and overcome them.
32nd Avenue Books: You write that you never really wanted to become a police officer. Nevertheless, that is what you did. How did that happen?
Matthew Horace: Many police departments (progressive ones) recruit on college campuses. As an NCAA D-1 athlete, I knew that I could endure the physical rigors. I had seen so much bad policing as a kid growing up in Philly, I figured why not become a part of the solution and not the problem. It was a great opportunity right out of college with great pay, tenure, benefits, and it appealed to my sense of team work, esprit de corp and community engagement. It also prepared me to be considered for hire into the elite federal law enforcement system.
32nd Avenue Books: There was a time when you were an aggressive cop. Can you describe the process in which you changed?
Matthew Horace: We are taught to be aggressive as a part of our duties. Naturally, a lot of athletes are drawn to the profession. Aggression is not the problem. Over aggression is the problem. Many of us understand where the line is drawn because we have been subjected to these behaviors as victims. Treat people with respect until they show you otherwise or become a threat to you or others.
32nd Avenue Books: You say that everyone has biases. How do you determine whether a bias can be held in check?
Matthew Horace: You have to identify what your biases are first, acknowledge them and practice a paradigm shift.
32nd Avenue Books: Emantic Bradford, Jr. was a “good guy with a gun” in Alabama. What could have prevented his shooting?
Matthew Horace: Keep in mind that Mr. Bradford wasn't a police officer. In the book we talk about one of the dangers of being black and blue is never being considered by others as being part of a solution, but always being feared. In the book, we call this the boogeyman effect. This problem transcends to any black person with a visible gun. We are going to be assumed guilty because of the implicit biases that have been ingrained in our psyches. Our story about NY police officer Omar Edwards illustrates the point all too well. The case in Ohio where a black man was shot to death in a Walmart while holding a toy gun further illustrates this. It is for this reason that many of us, when off duty, don't respond to or react to crimes in our presence. In fact, in the book I point out having been almost shot by a white police officer during an undercover operation where I was mistaken for a bad guy.
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