Police strive to provide timely, accurate information during emergencies, including suspect descriptions that can help people avoid harm and aid in investigations. Now, in an effort to use more inclusive language in emergency alerts and other communications during critical incidents, the University of Colorado Police Department is expanding its diversity, equity and inclusion training.
An ad hoc advisory committee of officers and staff members from CUPD, the Center for African and African American Studies (CAAAS) and the College of Arts and Sciences Office for Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) recently collaborated on language changes to be used in future emergency communications. CUPD Chief Doreen Jokerst reviewed alerts language shared by other Pac-12 schools, which helped the group to identify more inclusive practices.
JEDI will soon offer CUPD officers and staff inclusive language training, reviewing concepts such as microaggressions, wording intent versus impact and the importance of taking feedback. The training is designed as a space to learn from one another and come away with adaptable communication practices.
Patricia Gonzalez, assistant dean for justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in the College of Arts and Sciences, is part of the group advising CUPD on the importance of using inclusive alerts language and will deliver the training.
“A committee made up of different campus members is important because JEDI work should not be isolated work based on your job title or office title, but rather collective work that pushes us to strive to be better as a community for the people we serve,” she said.
Gonzalez worked with CUPD in the spring to implement a more inclusive practice of allowing students, faculty and staff to receive alerts in languages other than English and said CUPD has shown it is responsive to receiving feedback from the community and being proactive to creating change within the department.
Reiland Rabaka, CAAAS director and professor of African, African American and Caribbean Studies, also contributed feedback on alerts language as part of the CUPD ad hoc advisory committee.
“Chief Jokerst and I have an open and ongoing dialogue regarding a number of important issues impacting various Black, Indigenous and other people of color on the CU Boulder campus,” he said. “Through our meetings and dialogues, the chief and I have gotten to know and, indeed, humanize each other. I see her as a person, first and foremost, and second as a police chief, and she sees me as a person, first, and second as a professor.
“We both believe CUPD has a pivotal role to play, not simply in keeping CU safe and secure, but in helping diverse and often excluded campus community members feel seen and heard and, most of all, welcomed and wanted at CU,” Rabaka said.
Alerts language revisions are expected to include more accurate, inclusive language around suspect descriptions pertaining to race and ethnicity. Only behaviors are considered suspicious –– and not race, ethnicity or perceived gender or religious affiliations –– and CUPD will revise its statement on these issues, which appears on the CU Boulder Alerts website, to include protected class information.
CUPD will continue to work with the ad hoc committee on an ongoing basis, looking at emergency communications through a lens of inclusivity.