Gilbert Police Chief Michael Soelberg has mandated a controversial training session for all town police officers and other sworn personnel, and the content and the cost of the training is raising questions.
Last December, Soelberg signed off on an order requiring attendance at one 10-hour day of Advanced Officer Training, to be completed between January and April.
The training includes seven hours of practical training in Building Clearing, Rapid Assault (Active Shooter Response), and Rescue Task Force principals at a former school. With another hour set aside for lunch, the remaining two hours are set aside for a controversial training session in DEI: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Traditionally, DEI training has been geared toward helping workplaces become more diverse and inclusive, with training activities focused on increasing employees’ awareness of bias and how they act towards others.
But questions about the content of the Gilbert PD training is making ripples through the department and the community, in part due to the effort of Mark Spencer, the Southwest Projects Coordinator for Judicial Watch, who forced town officials to release records of about the DEI training.
Those records include the invoice submitted to Soelberg by Iya Affo to conduct the DEI training at a cost of more than $20,000, excluding staff time. Affo’s website listed on the invoice is for a company called Heal Historical Trauma.
Affo is not a psychiatrist nor psychologist, yet some Gilbert PD staff complain she has been put forth by the police chief and other command staff as an expert on the mental health issues officers may face in dealing with the public.
In addition, complaints have been expressed about Affo’s focus on the concept of Inter-Generational Trauma – which focuses on the oppressive experiences of persons of color and adherents of minority religions, while ignoring the concept in relation to “White” people.
Another expenditure to Affo has also come under question. Last November, town officials paid nearly $1,400 to Affo for training to police command staff on the subject of “Creating Safety for Disempowered Humans.”
The website for the Town of Gilbert notes that Assistant Town Manager Leah Hubbard has been designated on behalf of the town’s executive management team “to facilitate the connection” between community diversity organizations and the town.
Gilbert has also posted an official statement that equal employment opportunities are provided to all employees and applicants without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, ancestry, age, genetic information, disability, medical condition, or marital status.
Jim Torgeson, a council member for the Town of Gilbert, told KFYI’s James T. Harris on Wednesday he is aware of the questions raised about the content presented by Affo. He also is unaware of any issues within the police department to necessitate the mandatory DEI training.
“I’ve not heard of one issue where somebody was abused because of the color of their skin,” Torgeson told Harris, adding “it’s sad, because we’re perpetuating a problem by doing this.”
The Gilbert PD staff required to take part in the DEI training include:
• All Patrol Division sworn personnel (officers, sergeants, lieutenants)
• Public Affairs including reserve officers
• Traffic Unit (day, night, and recon)
• K-9 Unit
• Bike Team
• School Resource
• Hiring Unit
• Training Unit
• Peer Support / Wellness
• Office of Professional Standards
• Administrative & Enforcement Support
• Criminal Investigations Division Units
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