Long before the Black Lives Matter movement took root in the United States, citizens in Germany were expressing concern about racism within their police force and calling for reform. The public was paying close attention to police behavior, according to Ralph Huppertsberg, an instructional trainer with the Thuringian Police Force and himself a 10-year veteran, and rightly so, he explains.
"Police officers serve as guardians of public safety and order, and our most important duty is to protect the constitution of human rights," he writes. "Since we are confronted every day of our working lives with the worst depths of human nature and the worst aspects of crime, it is all the more important that we do the right thing ourselves."
To this end, Huppertsberg has developed an experiential training course to teach cadets in Thuringia's Police Academy how to uncover any pre-existing prejudices, eliminate biased behaviors and develop the intercultural competence they will need to succeed in their new roles.
His two-lesson course is part of the Academy's 10-day diversity and cultural competency training that all cadets must complete over the course of their basic training, and uses two Metalog tools -- Scenario Cards (Stereotypes & Diversity) and CultuRallye.
In the first lesson, "Using Available Knowledge," Huppertsberg uses Scenario Cards to have the cadets reflect on the previous day's topic, "Prejudice from a Psychological Perspective," and to start the new day by considering their own personal experiences with diversity. He spreads the cards out on a table in the middle of the room, and has everyone sit in chairs arranged in a circle. He asks, "Why do you think diversity is key to counteracting racism?" and has them select a card that addresses some aspect of the question and explain this to the group.
The cadets reflect on their individual experiences in a very open and diverse way, Huppertsberg explains, which not only enables each of them to find their own voice, but also leads to a cumulative effect where everyone's reflections combine for a new multi-faceted perspective.
"Scenario Cards are an excellent way to kick off a lively discussion at the beginning of a new training day. The creative versatility of the images gives each participant the opportunity to reflect on their own personal experiences. It delivers considerable added value to the group," Hupperstberg says.
In the second lesson, "Intercultural Competence," he uses the CultuRallye dice game with its random rules, lack of predictability and sudden changes in fortune to symbolize the immigrant experience in Germany and to build empathy. He pairs it with the classic Blue Eyes / Brown Eyes exercise developed by Jane Elliott in 1968 (to have the cadets experience racism themselves), then starts the game. He sits four to five people at each table, with the rules of the game face down, then hands out a predetermined number of game chips. He starts with a 10-minute warm up and gives everyone a chance to learn the rules before beginning the first real round. Once this starts, he pauses the first round, and asks the cadet with the fewest chips at each table to move to another table. He compares these 'losers' from each table to refugees who often regard themselves as losers in their former homelands and move to Germany to seek fortune and happiness, assigning real life meaning to the experience. The effect is immediate and the cadets demonstrate an obvious shift in perspective, Huppertsberg explains. By experiencing what it means to be a 'loser,' they quickly learn to appreciate what it feels to enter a new system as someone in need of help, and to experience rejection instead of support.
"CultuRallye has a very playful component that generates an enormous pull effect in a very short time," he notes. "As a result, the participants very quickly forget the actual context of the training and often show very authentic behavior. At the different tables, all conceivable behaviors become apparent very quickly - from understanding and support to shameless exploitation and a refusal to help."
Using both tools together is enormously powerful, Huppertsberg notes. "We leverage this personal experience-based learning with great success when we tackle the topic of intercultural competence. The change in perspective that is achieved, the insights gained over multiple sensory channels, and the subsequent transfer to the real world enable the participants to gain an enormous wealth of experience that has a sustained, beneficial influence on their personal behavior."
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