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Chief Koval's Blog

An Earnest Desire to Listen and Learn by Author Roberto Gonzales

December 15, 2016 9:14 AM

As part of the thirty hours of cultural competency training, this year's Recruit class read the book "Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America" by Roberto G. Gonzales.  This ethnography recounts some of Gonzales's findings from a twelve-year study of 150 undocumented young adults in Los Angeles.  The book was recommended to the department by Deputy Mayor Gloria Reyes and selected by Chief Koval.

This shared reading experience, modeled after the Go Big Read initiative at UW Madison, is designed to engage our newest officers in an academically focused reading experience, to generate vigorous discussions and exchanges of diverse ideas and to promote connections among recruits, veteran members of the department and our community.  MPD first piloted this concept during the 2015 Academy with the book "Just Mercy:  A Story of Justice and Redemption" by author Bryan Stevenson.  We then partnered with Dr. Floyd Rose and 100 Black Men of Madison in welcoming Mr. Stevenson to the MPD Training Center for a facilitated discussion.  The success of this pilot initiative led Chief Koval to make a shared reading experience an annual component of the academy curriculum.

While this year's class began their reading assignment in advance of being sworn in, a curriculum group was formed to develop the assignments, discussions and final event.  This team consisted of members of the Training Team, Amigos en Azul as well as representatives from the community.  Lives in Limbo author, Roberto Gonzales, assisted MPD in acquiring books for our staff, took part in the curriculum planning process and shared materials that helped shape the final programming.

Twelve central questions were developed by the curriculum team and served as the foundation of the recruit's work with the book.  After writing in response to eight of the twelve central questions, the recruits participated in small group seminar discussions along with members of the curriculum team.  Following this group examination of the themes highlighted in the book, the curriculum transitioned to connecting those themes to Madison and Dane County. 

Deputy Mayor Gloria Reyes, Centro Hispano Executive Director Karen Menendez Coller and UW Madison Director of Community Relations Leslie Orrantia collaborated in the development of our final event.  On December 8th, recruits spent the morning at Centro Hispano and toured south-side neighborhoods, all with the interest of giving them a sense of who their community partners are and what applied problem-solving looks like.  They then returned to the MPD Training Center where they participated in a panel discussion hosted by Chief Koval and moderated by Karen, Gloria and Leslie. 

Panel Members:

UNIDOS Executive Director Veronica Lazo, joined by Gina Izunza
Catholic Multicultural Center Immigration Attorney Ramona Natera
Centro Hispano Youth Program Coordinator Alondra Quechol
MPD Sergeant and Amigos en Azul member Mike Alvarez
UW Madison Ph.D. Student Laura Minero-Meza
Lives in Limbo author Roberto Gonzales

This wonderful day culminated with a facilitated dialogue activity moderated by UW Madison Professor Steve Quintana and closing comments by Assistant Chief Randy Gaber.  With the assistance of graduate student facilitators, groups made up of recruits, veteran members of MPD, panelists and guests, shared personal experiences, talked and listened intently, all to promote better understanding and interactions among members of police and Latin@ communities.

What began as a simple assigned reading, grew into a shared experience built on collaborative relationships.  These recruits and the MPD Training Team will be forever in debt to these community partners for taking the time to share their experience, passion and expertise.  A special thank you to Roberto G. Gonzales for his support and enthusiasm for this project.  We thank him for this important book and for making the time to participate in our panel discussion.  In his comments, he shared his concern for the future and noted that, "It's easy to think that real change and societal improvement is beyond our grasp."  He reminded us however, "for undocumented people, in the absence of meaningful immigration reform, the people on the ground (social workers, educators, police officers, etc.) are the ones with the real impact."  He closed his comments by thanking everyone in attendance and commented that he was encouraged by our example of what is required to make meaningful change, "an earnest desire to listen and learn".  


This blog was authored by Sergeant Timothy Patton.

Posted by: Chief Koval

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