The Miami Heat partnered with the City of Miami Police Department and the nonprofit Dedication to Community (D2C) in April in an attempt to mend the relationship between the Miami community and their officers.
Program training includes workshops with instruction and discussion between community members and police officers led by D2C Founder and CEO Mr. Quentin Williams and Co-Facilitator Kim Varner Sr. With one-to-one, individual and large-group, solutions-based conversations program aims to create a safe space for both parties to openly communicate and build rapport with each other.
Darrell Blocker, ABC News contributor, retired CIA agent and current board member of Peace 4 Kids, an advocacy group for youth in foster care, says the work of bridging the gap between the community and the police through programs like this is a grassroots effort.
“Trust wasn’t lost overnight,” Blocker told ABC News. “It all comes down to opening channels of communication.”
Williams, a federal prosecutor and former FBI agent, is the common thread between communities and law enforcement. He grew up in what he called a tough time in Yonkers, New York in the late 80s when the crack epidemic was already ravaging New York.
“I didn’t want to be a cop,” Williams told ABC News. “I saw my friends being taken to jail by cops.”
Ultimately, it was this “disparity and treatment” that drove Williams to later become an FBI agent. Even as an officer, he says his badge did not protect him from the discriminatory experience of being profiled by a fellow officer. In the summer of 1994, he said he found himself “in the back of a cruiser stopped for matching someone else’s description earlier that day”.
Williams says the experience coupled with his background has informed how he approaches law enforcement training.
“I’m not just talking about cops and the community, I’m talking about human beings,” Williams said. “Dignity costs nothing to give.”
Officers like Tim Shaw, police chief in Stamford, Connecticut, say they are linked to Williams’ training. Shaw met Williams at the 2020 Fairfield County Police Chiefs Quarterly Meeting. Following a mandate issued by the state of Connecticut requiring all officers to undergo implicit bias training, Shaw called on Williams to come train the 275 of its officers. For him, Williams and his storytelling represented “the right person in the room who can relate to the officers and his staff.”
Previously, officers and community members attended the training separately, but the program has since evolved to encourage engagement between the two groups. According to Williams, the more comprehensive training emphasizes community compliance and officer professionalism.
“Not all officers are as open about it as others are,” Shaw told ABC News.
Studies have long exposed the unfairly disproportionate treatment of blacks and browns by law enforcement in the United States that has gone on for centuries.
“We use our unique position in our own city to act as a bridge between the community and the police,” Lorrie-Ann Diaz, Miami Heat’s vice president of corporate communications and social responsibility, told ABC News.