Mercyhurst to host City of Erie Police with sensitivity training

Local News

Before Mercyhurst welcomes both new students and upperclassmen back to campus this upcoming fall, the university will first welcome Erie Police Officers from the Erie Police Department.

The university has agreed to host these officers for training in cultural sensitivity and diversity.

This training will take place on Mercyhurst’s campus over a two week period of time in July and will be following the CDC guidelines relative to COVID-19 mitigation.

Groups of 25 officers or less will be physically distant in the university’s larger lecture halls as part of this process.

The training will be conducted by Mercyhurst Associate Professor of Religious Studies Dr. Richard McCarty, who is a member of Erie Mayor Joseph Schember’s LGBTQA+ Advisory Council.

Dr. McCarty has been among the advisors meeting with the mayor and Police Chief Daniel Spizarny to discuss the protest that occurred in downtown Erie on May 30, the police response to it, and how the city might best move forward.

Among those recommendations was an updated and timely course on cultural sensitivity training. This is an area in which Dr. McCarty is well qualified in.

Through the Greater Erie Alliance for Equality, McCarty has offered diversity training sessions for a number of Erie institutions including G.E. Transportation/Wabtec, Erie Insurance, Erie Veterans Hospital, Scott Enterprises, and Presque Isle Downs and Casino.

“As an ethicist, I advocate for restorative social justice and a better understanding of human diversity—recognizing that strong communities are those that continue to improve upon mutual respect, boundaries, and accountability,” McCarty said.

Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Leanne Roberts said in addition the university intends to offer the same training to its cadets at the Mercyhurst Police Academy.

“Considering that Mercyhurst University has both the experience and the expertise in cultural sensitivity training, it makes sense that we employ it for the greater good of our police, our cadets, and our community,” Roberts said.

Bill Hale the Police Academy Director said that the academy’s curriculum which is mandated by the Pennsylvania Police Officer’s Education and Training Commission, includes a block on procedural justice, but further enhancement will offer cadets a deeper perspective.

Hale said that he is meeting with Dr. McCarty this Friday to explore ways in which the academy’s new virtual reality system might be incorporated in McCarty’s training sessions.

The training will also include the following:

• Community diversity and issues of cultural competency

• Ethical understandings of social justice

• Opportunities for officers to discuss theory and practice around physical force and de-escalation

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