MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The goal is cracking down on violence with a first of its kind program, unveiled for Memphis police officers. The pilot program is designed to help police stop violence before it starts. Memphis police officers in the Community Outreach Program, or COPS, are in their third day of training with instructors from George Mason University.
If the workshop is successful, the program could be taken across the country. Memphis was chosen because of its high crime and young offenders.
COPS Instructor, Megan Price, is trying to help Memphis police officers think outside the box. To understand what it's like to be the victim, possible suspect, or innocent bystander answering the door, she tells the students, it's "intentional responsiveness, so you're following her on her own terms."
The crash course in conflict resolution focuses on preventing retaliatory violence, or crimes that result from an argument. Instructor Jamie Price says, "There are ways of dealing with the crime aspect of it, but if we see it in the broader context of a conflict, and can resolve the conflict, the crime will go away."
Instructors say officers are learning how to make residents feel as though they're being questioned on their own terms. Memphis Police Officer Brandon Wherry says the lessons help "humanize ourselves to the individuals in the community, understand where they're coming from to help us serve them better."
Deputy Chief of Special Operations Anthony Berryhill says, "It's always a good thing to have extra tools in your tool box."
Berryhill says this type of communication training gives officers alternatives on how to deal with residents and can offer a new approach, opening dialog that will open doors.
"This is a pilot program but based on what were seeing so far, it's going to be a positive thing." He continues, "It may not work in every neighborhood, but it may work in one or two, that's a winning situation for us."