Policing workshop aims to bridge community divide

Jan. 25—WILLIMANTIC — Highprofile police incidents nationwide involving shootings and race in recent years have law enforcers in greater scrutiny of a divided public these days.

But a new police training program that came to Willimantic Monday aims to solve problems associated with departments' public image and heal past wounds both locally and nationally.

Eastern Connecticut State University Police Chief Stephen Tavares said it is the responsibility of departments to provide a " better culture than what's perceived out there" by promoting themselves through social media and events like the one Monday at Windham Town Hall.

In addition, Tavares spoke about the importance of building relationships with other officers in his department.

"We've got to show appre- ciation to our co-workers, other officers," he said.

The Connecticut Police Officers Standards and Training Council ( POSTC) paid for the event, which was held in partnership with the national nonprofit Dedication to Community (D2C).

According to the D2C website, the group educates and empowers communities through skill-building work — shops and ongoing forums " designed to improve understanding and foster relationships while pursuing healing, reconciliation and unity."

D2C provided guest speak ers for Monday's session, which was attended by representatives from several eastern Connecticut area police departments.

In addition to the Willimantic Police Department, the Putnam, Plainfield, New London and ECSU police departments, as well as the FBI, had representatives at the training, which was free for participants.

The Willimantic session was the first in a week-long training series statewide, with other sessions being held in Hartford, Waterbury, New Britain and Bridgeport.

" It's a new program,"