Commissioners Participate in Anti-Bias Workshop with Constituents
On the very chilly evening of Wednesday, January 30th, the Lower Merion Township Board of Commissioners hosted and took part in a unique public session that was designed as an interactive program to focus on an important subject for our society: “Understanding and Challenging our Implicit and Explicit Biases.” It was facilitated by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
The workshop was part of an overall response to situations which called into question how the Township can improve Police and community relations. That included the retention several years ago of the services of Benjamin F. Brooks (Major Ben’s Consulting, LLC), who has a distinguished track record of providing this type of advice. In his report was a suggestion to conduct community workshops as well as training for the Police, Township staff, and the Board of Commissioners.
“While the frigid weather prevented the full contingent of those who signed up from attending, there was great dialogue among the group, calling into question our own natural biases and recognizing when those perceptions interfere with our judgment,” said Daniel Bernheim, president of the Board of Commissioners. “True to form for Lower Merion, the attendees left inquiring what is next and how do we build on the progress. Clearly, this is a positive step in a process which goes beyond the focal point of improving Police and community relations. We really appreciate the ADL and the expertise they demonstrated in the program.”
Fifty Township residents took part in the training, including 12 Commissioners. Prior to the evening, the ADL held two intensive half-day programs for many Lower Merion Township employees in December. A third is scheduled for February 8th, for a total of 120 participating non-police employees. In addition, all 160 members of the Lower Merion Police Department, including civilian staff, participated in similar ADL-led workshops over the past year.
“Most of our staff comes into contact with the public to some degree as they go about their work,” said Township Manager Ernie McNeely. “This anti-bias training is invaluable in that regard, but also in how our employees interact with each other. These have been insightful sessions for our residents, staff and elected Commissioners.”
Part of the ADL’s mission is to provide community members with tools to challenge all forms of prejudice, and actively promote inclusive communities, schools and workplaces in which individual differences are respected and valued. Its workshops and facilitated discussions provide community members with resources and strategies to recognize and address issues of explicit and implicit bias, prejudice and discrimination.
To learn more about the regional ADL, its initiatives and events, go to Philadelphia.adl.org.