COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – After last summer’s protests over racial injustice, police in Cookeville are working hard to encourage community policing efforts.
The police department recently partnered with Tennessee Tech University’s School of Education to create a course focused on promoting diversity, equality, justice and respect across their community.
“It happened organically and I personally feel blessed to have this opportunity to hear their staff come in, share perspectives and learn from them, but they also learn from us so it’s been nothing short of amazing up until this point,” said Jamal Thompson, a senior at Tech who played a pivotal role in creating the partnership.
Thompson met Chief Randy Evans through another program the police department sponsors. Both wanted to provide an opportunity to improve relationships and communication.
“We are trying to destroy some misinformation about law enforcement and officers, but at the same time I want our police officers to understand these students,” Chief Evans said. “I want them to understand those individual experiences and be able to share and learn from them. It’s just as important for us to learn from those students as it is for them to learn from us.”
Twice a week, Chief Evans and officers from different departments rotate visiting campus. They share details about day-to-day operations, training and how they engage with the public.
Students write a reflection each week and participate in an open discussion. There are also opportunities for hands-on activities, including a ride along, touring the jail and collaborating on a community service project. One day officers brought a SWAT truck for students to check out.
“For us to come together and realize there is common ground here, it’s not all bad law enforcement, not all police officers are bad and to let them know that we’re not all bad either,” Thompson said.
The department is working with the university to make the class a permanent course moving forward.