City Council to decide on grant aimed at reducing youth minority arrests

Virginia State Department offers $25,000 to better train police


Charlottesville City Council will vote Tuesday to accept a grant to train city police officers on how to best approach youth minority arrests. The grant decision, a product of years of investigation into how to reduce racial disproportionality in Charlottesville youth arrests, comes amid a national reexamination of police procedures following the fatal shooting of Ferguson, Missouri teen Michael Brown.

The grant is offered by the Virginia State Department and proposed by the Charlottesville Task Force on Racial Disparities and Disproportionality.

A report by University of Virginia Community Psychology Department explained an earlier study had prompted the city to find methods to reduce a disproportionate number of youth arrests.

“According to the U.S. Census, 51% of Charlottesville youth ages 10-17 are white, 41% are black, and 8% are of more than one race or another race,” the report said. “Minority overrepresentation, specifically for black youth, was found at nearly each of the decision points in the juvenile justice system.”

To combat this disparity, the task force advised creating programs to better guide police, youth and juvenile justice professionals in their interactions.

The proposed grant, in excess of $25,000, focuses on the training of police officers.

According to Psychology Professor Noelle Hurd, spotlighting of minorities in the justice system stems in large part from implicit bias. This bias, fed by negative stereotypes in the media and in society, impacts not only police officers, but also the civilian population at large.

“What we do know from psychological research is that the majority of us hold implicit biases,” Hurd said. “This tendency … could be at the root of some of the disproportionate contact that we’re seeing.”

Hurd said identifying and acknowledging inherent bias is an important step in combatting it, and training police officers to recognize their own biases and understand how to counteract them would be a good way to improve existing relations.

According to Vice Mayor Dede Smith, The grant is already on the consent agenda for the City Council’s Tuesday night meeting and it is likely it will pass, Vice Mayor Dede Smith said.

For the measure to be rejected, Council would have to first move the grant off the consent agenda and then discuss it again at the end of the meeting, which Smith said was very unlikely.

“There are a lot of things controversial [on the agenda], but I don’t think this is one of them,” Smith said.

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