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The Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office is going back to school this month as everyone from Sheriff Todd Gibson on down attends RITE Academy training.
RITE, or Racial Intelligence Training and Engagement, provides skills to help deputies and staff including detention deputies become more aware of their emotions and the attitudes they carry with them when they engage with the public.
“This training brings a new perspective to individuals working within law enforcement that allows them to work on themselves before they have to deal with others,” Gibson said. “While the training is mostly geared toward deputies and detectives in the field, we realized that every member of our team, including civil deputies and administrative staff, at some point deals with the public and with each other, so all employees are taking this training.”
The course involves private self-evaluation along with peer engagement and discussion of various scenarios and information presented through real-life videos.
“The RITE training isn’t about placing blame,” Gibson said. “It’s about knowing ourselves better, putting ourselves in another person’s shoes and learning how get a handle on our own emotions so we don’t go into a situation angry.”
The RITE training emphasizes, but is not limited to, cultural diversity issues and recognizing biases. The model introduces tools each person can use to reach a new level of self-awareness and self-regulation, allowing individuals to develop more empathy with others and stronger social skills.
The RITE training tools are lessons deputies can take into their homes as well and use when dealing with challenging teens or other family issues that trigger emotional responses.
“Thank you for investing in us and making this training available,” said Capt. Jeff Cox, who attended the first CCSO RITE class.
“You didn’t just say you were going to do it — you followed through with the class,” Capt. Julie Tipton said.
Undersheriff Blake Green is facilitating the course, and he is quick to point out that training is peer-oriented and emphasizes communication.
Through use of best practices and greater sensitivity in dealing with others, especially those with racial or cultural differences, RITE training allows deputies to build community trust and to act with integrity.
“I sat down and took this course along with everyone else,” Gibson said. “This skill set is valuable for our team and a worthwhile investment that I believe will help all of us at CCSO do our jobs with humility while we seek continuous improvement.”
What’s one of the biggest tools RITE suggests law enforcement uses when engaging with others?
An attitude of gratitude, because sometimes that’s all it takes to stay calm, listen and see others as human beings rather than as problems.
Does this mean deputies could lose their edge in the field? Absolutely not, Gibson said.
“We still use safety practices such as keeping barriers between ourselves and a suspect and observing our surroundings,” Gibson said. “What changes is our attitudes as we approach people, allowing us to de-escalate a situation rather than making things worse.”