Philly police sending recruits to African American Museum
Carol Ozemhoya| OW Contributor | 7/10/2018, 10:53 a.m.
As with a lot of cities lately, the Philadelphia area has had several incidents of racism involving police. In an effort to train its new officers to be cognizant of the history of racism, the Philadelphia Police Dept. is sending its recruits to the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., reports Jenice Armstrong with Philly.com. They’ve taken five classes so far. The hope is that by helping recruits understand the black experience, they can do a better job of policing. “I’ve always said we don’t always get it right. What we strive to do is to get it better,” said Police Commissioner Richard Ross when asked about last week’s trip. “I believe this trip can help some folks understand that.” A photographer and Armstrong tagged along on a visit, which included a session to a lower level of the two-year-old museum as a tour guide detailed the horrors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery. At one point, she began singing the Negro spiritual “Wade in the Water,” which was used by enslaved Africans to communicate among themselves about their escape plans without letting slave owners know. Out of 121 Philly police recruits, just 28 were Black men and women. The vast majority were white men and women, with a sprinkling of Hispanics and Asians. The recruits were silent when they spotted the actual casket of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago who was beaten to death in 1955 for allegedly flirting with a white woman in Mississippi. Armstrong reports that the recruits appeared especially alert when the guide stopped in front of an actual guard tower from the infamous maximum-security prison operated by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, and listened intently as tour guide Janice Ferebee made the connection between slavery and modern-day mass incarceration. Some of the recruits lagged behind and read every word of inscriptions under the exhibits well after the rest of the group had moved on. One recruit appeared close to tears as she took it all in. There was some joking around, but mostly they maintained a respectful air as they made their way through the vast space near the Washington Monument on the National Mall. “I think they get it, but they are concerned about how to speak on it,” Ferebee told Armstrong later. “