Podcast featuring Ashley K. Taylor, D.B.A., Faculty Member, School of Business and
Dr. Kathleen Love, retired police officer and trainer
Law enforcement agencies face intense scrutiny about how officers treat people of different ethnicities. In this episode, AMU professor Dr. Ashley Taylor talks to 23-year police veteran and now-retired police trainer, Dr. Kathleen Love. Learn how her department trained officers by taking them out into every ethnic community as well as homeless centers, domestic violence centers, religious centers, so officers could learn about these different groups of people, hear about their experiences with police, and listen to their concerns. This strategy not only built empathy and understanding among officers, it opened a line of communication with community members and built mutual trust and respect.
Listen to the Episode:
Read the Transcript:
Dr. Ashley Taylor: I’m Dr. Ashley Taylor. And I’m speaking with Dr. Kathleen Love about an important and timely topic: equity, diversity, and inclusion. We hear these terms often enough, but what do they really mean and how are they demonstrated in the workplace and on a larger scale in society. Let’s talk about it. Thank you, Dr. Love for agreeing to have this discussion with me.
Dr. Kathleen Love: Thank you. And thank you for asking me.
Dr. Ashley Taylor: Sure. Tell the audience a little bit about yourself and your professional background.
Dr. Kathleen Love: Sure. So I’m a native new Yorker. I was born and raised on long Island, New York. And when I got married, I spent four years up in Tiverton area, Fall River, Massachusetts, Tiverton, Rhode Island. And then I came down to South Carolina and that’s when I started most of my career that I stayed with.
So I started with the rape center, People Against Rape, and that is a local tri-county rape center that helped women, children, and men that have been sexually assaulted or sexually abused. I met some really wonderful ladies from different backgrounds. I was young and they definitely taught me about different cultures and different communities to work with, especially victims of crimes of sexual assault and sexual abuse.
I went to the top as an administrator, I started as a volunteer, and I felt like I needed to do more for children. My background growing up, I grew up in a domestic violence home.
So I recognized a lot while I was out visiting different homes that I can do more in the communities than waiting for a reaction instead of being proactive. And I felt policing would be the best way to do that.
So I became a North Charleston police officer and started out in patrol. And then I think that my chiefs through my career, I worked for three different chiefs, and I found that I had a specialty with children in working in the communities of all ethnic backgrounds.
So that was my specialty is working with children, especially abused children, to get them the right help. And I worked 23 years as a police officer and began my education. So going back a little bit, which also helped me working into the different communities that I worked in is that, when I was going to school I had challenges.
And back then they didn’t really test you for ADD or dyslexia as much as that they do now. So I was a decent kid, so they just promoted me, promoted me. And I found a lot of challenges going to school. So it was very hard for me going to school.
So when I started an undergraduate program, an English teacher showed me, “I think you have problems, get tested.” And in saying that, I realized I can use special resources and got the help that I needed, which while as a police officer, working with children, I was able to recognize their disabilities. And that’s a majority that I’ve seen a lot is that kids working in the schools and everything, when we get calls for kids fighting or acting up in classroom, many, many times I remember as a little girl is I would act up because I didn’t want to read.
And back then you didn’t get arrested or get in major trouble, but now in today’s world, you did. So with me recognizing that stuff, I was able to help a lot of kids in the police world, get them resources that they needed, so they wouldn’t act out. They wouldn’t get arrested in the school or suspended.
So in my policing career, I worked a lot of different programs and one of them was youth court. So youth court was one of my big babies, was that we realized in, especially in the communities that I worked was probably 90% African-American students in the schools that I was involved in. Back then, it was no tolerance in schools. Kids got arrested. And we realized that this doesn’t serve the kids in the long run. So we had a youth court through the school districts students, but it was a police department and it’s a national program.
And so we had the kids volunteer and then we would look at the lower misdemeanor cases, not felonies, but the misdemeanor cases. And we found through the years of working with the students being the prosecutors, the students being the defense attorneys and the jury, that it was more effective with their peers than adults doing the work. And we found that we helped hundreds of young people stay out of the system by working these youth courts.
In fact, a lot of those students that have graduated and moved on have become lawyers or work in the field. And they felt that the youth court helped them decide their career. Plus the students, for example, this young man, 11 years old, was getting in trouble, fighting, fighting the teachers. And again, like I said, I recognize, I’m like, something’s not right here. And I asked him to read me something and he couldn’t read. And every time the teacher asked him read he’d fist fight.
So what the students in the youth court did was they taught him how to read and he never gave us a problem again. So instead of a punishment where he can go into a court system, they took their time, taught them how to read, and the parents didn’t get calls from school. And so there was so many success stories that if you spend the time. Now I’ve been lucky, because I had chiefs that felt this was all important that they gave me the time and the officers to make these changes and have these projects going on.
Dr. Ashley Taylor: So that’s a great foundation for this conversation. Tell me how your experience has shaped your perspective on diversity.
Dr. Kathleen Love: So again, you know how everybody says New York is the melting pot. So I thought about this a lot of times, especially in the last couple of years, because growing up, I was around all different ethnic backgrounds but they were segregated. Like the Italians lived over here, the Irish lived over here. The Jewish community was over here. Yes. You had a lot of ethnic groups, but I started thinking a lot of it was separated.
So when I moved down here, one of the things I kind of smiled about was I was at a Belk’s department store and I knew the young lady was Italian. And I said, “Hey, where’s the Italian restaurants. Where’s the Italian community.” And she didn’t know what I was talking about. And I said, “Wow, that’s different.” And I realized that it’s not separate by ethnic groups down here. It was more black, white, Hispanic, and some Asian. That was the difference. And then I said, “Okay, how can I make change and be part of all these communities and make a difference.”
Let me go back to the rape center. The woman that hired me and she was the volunteer coordinator. I started as a volunteer coordinator. Her name was Eileen Harvey. She’s like, “You have something special, a gift about you.” She recognized it, I didn’t. And at the time I was 24 years old. And these ladies that I worked with were 10 years older than me.
And she said, “You have a gift to gab.” So she’s like, “And you have such a background that you can go out and help these young people and make them feel comfortable. But you need to know what communities you go into. You can’t just assume that you know what you’re doing.” So she went out and showed me the different African-American communities.
And then we had a Hispanic person and she went into the Hispanic and there was a language barrier there. I don’t speak Spanish. So I had to use the interpreter or look it up online, how to speak this. And so I recognized from a young age that when you want to work in diverse, ethnic, or different communities, you have to learn about their communities. You can’t just assume.
The biggest thing I see is people watch TV and just believe what’s on TV. And until you work these communities and know how people live and what’s important to them. For example, I didn’t realize when I was a police officer that when a male from Mexico looks down, that that’s out of respect. And I was like, why is he disrespecting me? I’m trying to talk to him. But he was showing me respect. So if you don’t know that about people’s cultures, then you can a negative experience. So it made me realize that I needed to go out and learn about all the different cultures and communities that I serve.
And the fortunate thing, I worked for Chief Burgess, Reggie Burgess, he had actually hired me, who’s an African American. We actually played softball. He played on the rape center team and he encouraged me to become a police officer too. And he ended up hiring me. He was in training back then, and now he’s moved up to the Chief of Police. And he allowed me to go out there and do my thing as he said. And if you show love, and that’s the main thing. These children want to know that, first of all, you’re honest with them, that you are going to be there for them, that you want the best for them and you show it truly, because they can tell a fake person.
I would say my babies out there, they will tell them like, that person’s fake. If you have a good heart, they’re going to sense the good heart. And then it might take a couple of weeks, a couple of months for them to give you a chance, especially if you’re from a different background. But if you stay consistent and you show how much you care, it works. And I’m proof of it.
There’s a young lady, her name’s Shavante. She graduated about 2006 in high school. And since she graduated, every week, she texts me or she calls me to check on me. So when I didn’t hear from her, I actually said, wow, something must be wrong. I call her. And she’s like, “Oh,” she used to call me mama love, “mama love, no, I was really busy.” I said, “Well, now I count on that weekly text or call.”
But when I go back and see these young people now as young adults, and they tell me the difference just by me talking and spending time with them, I’ve seen two things. I definitely seen the relationship grow from different cultures, because I taught them my culture too. But I also, they taught me a lot too. And I think one thing with policing, when you work out in different ethnic backgrounds or communities, you have to listen, you can’t be the talker. You listen and let somebody finish. And then if you have something to say or something that you want to educate, then you educate, but you always listen first.
Dr. Ashley Taylor: So having interacted with all of these different communities, these different ethnic groups, have you noticed or pinpointed any unconscious bias that you may have had to overcome?
Dr. Kathleen Love: I noticed it, well in policing there’s not a lot of women out there. They’re starting to get more and more. I’ve seen the differences when women are hired and you’ll see that sometimes women make less than men. So there’s differences there. How you’re treated. I think in the beginning, when I started policing, they’d rather you work with the juveniles and work with the kids or work in detectives than be out in the road. But I also think that I had strong leaders, male leaders, that put us out in the field too. But I did see in the police world that women are sometimes treated differently.
Dr. Ashley Taylor: So that would be an example of one of the disparities you’ve observed in your line of work.
Dr. Kathleen Love: I did. But the good news is that women that are in police, they don’t hold their tongue, not the ones that I’ve worked with and been around. So a lot of times they will have to fight their own battle and they don’t stay quiet. So, that’s the good news. And because of the women before me, they made it easier for me. And hopefully I made it easier for the next generations coming in.
Dr. Ashley Taylor: What do you think some of the underlying causes of those disparities are?
Dr. Kathleen Love: Women have to recognize we might not be physically as strong as men. I think that there’s some concern that, will they be able to back up if they’re in a fist fight? Can a woman just get in there and fight? Can a woman run as fast after a suspect? If they’re running a mile down the road, getting somebody will they keep up and will they be able to?
I think it’s changed a lot. But I think when I started that women, a lot of times, will the shooting aspect, I think is the concern that, will they be able to shoot? Are they too soft? And I have found that women, especially on the range, will shoot just as good as the guys, when they’re in a battle, they’re right there with the guys. They’re right there if they have to fight for their lives they’re right there with the guys.
So I’ve seen, and I had to point out to some that might’ve been stand back of, how is this woman going to be? That we have to prove ourselves in the beginning more is what I would think. Once you prove yourself, I think they kind of ease off, but that has been a challenge when I first started. But once I proved myself, then you’re in basically. Yeah, she can handle herself. She can.
But the most important thing I want anybody to take out. And when I teach policing classes is: If you are a good communicator and you listen and you go out there and not judge people, you go out there and you listen to what each side is, you’re not judgmental, people will calm down and listen before they come at you.
I’m not saying every suspect because some people are afraid to go to prison. They might’ve just killed somebody. They might’ve done something and they know they’re going away. So they’ll fight you anyway, no matter how you talk to them, but the majority of people will calm down if you treat them fairly and just listen.
Dr. Ashley Taylor: I think that that would probably also be the case when you become more familiar with the community that you serve. When you were talking earlier about the different ethnic backgrounds of the people that you interact with.
You mentioned a young man who would look down when he was looking at you. If you don’t know that community, you’re thinking he’s disrespecting you, but that’s how they communicate, a part of their communication. So I think that, that’s really interesting you brought that out.
Dr. Kathleen Love: When I was bringing all the resources together, religious leaders are really important. So in my area, we have two African-American, big churches that have hundreds and hundreds of followers. And I went to those two leaders and asked them to train our new officers and bring a bunch of Black men and say what police officers did to them growing up. These were older Black males that went through the 50s, 60s, 70s.
Then we brought in some younger ones and I wanted them to be totally honest. And I was training white officers, Black officers, Hispanic and Asian, but I wanted every ethnic group of police officers to listen to these Black males. And then the females came in and let them talk. And then I would go into the Hispanic leaders, religious leaders, because I also needed interpreters. We had some, but not many.
And I’d asked them to come in and train these officers of what in their community, what they see police were doing. For instance, in the Hispanic countries, they believe that you have to pay the police. And so that was one big thing. We had to explain to them, if an officer takes money, that is illegal, you turn them in. But that was something that was acceptable in their country. So we had to clarify a lot of things for them when it came to that.
So I think that bringing outside people in it, can’t just be the police that our trainer rookies, the religious leaders were a great help. And then what we did was the advocates out there, the civilian advocates and the different organizations would come out and talk to them and see, this is what we see in our communities. The police treated us bad, and this is what they did. It’s important that everybody has a say in this.
So those officers, we have found later that they had less complaints on going out and talking. We didn’t even just stop there. We taught about the homeless, went down to the homeless kitchen. We went and talked to all the homeless. It was mostly men. And then we went into the homeless camps, because we had a lot of them at that time, to go out and speak. So they understand mental health. They understand PTSD. Because you only get so much at a police academy and different states, you might have it eight weeks. You might have it 12 weeks, some have it five months. There’s only so much information you can get through a book.
Living it, I find, getting out into these communities and talking is the best education. So not only do they get the police academy, but they go through this immersion project. So the civilians and the outside resources can come in. And that includes the rape center, domestic violence center, children’s center. Anybody that’s going to help these officers become a better a officer and a better listener.
Dr. Ashley Taylor: That’s a really good point. So it all really comes back to that communication, open and honest communication, and extensive training to understand these different nuances of the different backgrounds and the different people that you’re working with.
Dr. Kathleen Love: Absolutely. For instance, policing. If I didn’t have policing behind me and I’m teaching a policing class, I’m just reading a book. Well, you can give that to a student. Well, if a police officer’s just at the police academy, just learning the basic stuff and believe me, that’s important because you got to know how to shoot right and all that. But the life, everyday thing of the communities you have to get in there.
We knocked on doors. We sat on stoops. We wanted to hear what they thought, and then we can change. And we did change. In fact, what came through all this stuff also was that they have civilian panel that they look at when an officer gets in trouble. Not only does the higher aboves, but they have a civilian panel that looks at what the officer did. We also tell the civilians to go for police rides, the ride alongs. And we found that when they did that, then they understood more what a police officer’s day to day is.
You don’t make the news when you do something good. For instance, our SWAT guys at North Charleston, they’re big guys, muscular guys. They get the bad guys, they go out. If there’s barricaded suspect, they go out. But they handle it so well because they’re people persons every day. They make sure they get out and know the community.
That they get more calls because the way they handle it. For instance, if they go in there and they have to get a suspect and there’s kids inside. They make sure the kids are safe, but they’ll go get a pizza. They have stuffed animals. And these are big guys that you’re like, what? But the mother and father that might be in trouble because of whatever it could be. They see what they’re doing for their kids. That they’re not trying to be degrading. They’re just trying to do their job.
And that has gone so far that for instance, we had the Slager shooting with Walter Scott in our community and outsiders have come in and they were trying to get riots going on. They knock on our community door and the community didn’t want no part of it. I thought about that and I asked, I said, “Why didn’t you?” They’re like, “We understand there might be one or two bad officers, but we know the majority of you.” And I got so many phone calls that day that said, we know this is not you. So that told me, understanding, learning the communities and listening does make people feel important and that they knew who the right people were at the police department too.
Dr. Ashley Taylor: So, why do you think it’s important for organizations to really foster diversity, equity and inclusion?
Dr. Kathleen Love: I think it’s important because we got to represent everybody we’re serving. So in the area that I serve most was probably 90 something percent African-American. But the problem is like the Chiefs and everybody tries to recruit different ethnic groups, women, Hispanic, Asian African-American. But because historically a lot of times people won’t apply to be a police officer. So, that’s where the change gets difficult to do.
I think if they go out, they try to recruit to the different colleges to different high schools. And we have all different ethnic backgrounds that go out and do that. But still I think because of historically and the news that people are afraid, they don’t think they’re going to make a change. They don’t want to be part of the system that hurt maybe their community. But I always tell everybody, and especially when I’m teaching a class, the only way we can change is we have every ethnic group represented in law enforcement.
So, in saying that, I’m part of anything that will recruit different ethnic backgrounds. And of course I have African-American young men and women in my class in different ethnic backgrounds. And that’s the number one thing. We need to, I say, if we expect any change out there, we need everybody represented. So you see what’s going on. And then they have the face to somebody that looks like them, that they want to be that.
When I was growing up, my dad was a police officer and I had policing in the background. And they say it’s in your blood. And I feel like sometimes it is, but if we don’t have African-American, Asian, Hispanic enough to represent of these communities, I think that’s a problem. I think we have to get, and women and everybody needs to be represented.
Now, I’m not saying that if you’re a white cop, you can’t do a good job. You have to just educate yourself in a community. But I think the most important thing is diversity in any police department or actually any business.
Dr. Ashley Taylor: So let’s say that the organization doesn’t find the value in that. What are some of the long-term consequences of ignoring the necessity of diversity and inclusion within your organization?
Dr. Kathleen Love: That’s where your problems come. I feel that a good organization is going to be somebody that represents everybody. Again, if they’re closed off, because they’re closed off, they’re the problem. But if, like I said, we have tried, Chief Burgess, the different chiefs to try get more minorities and different ethnic groups and religious groups to come and be police officers. They really do try.
That’s the struggle I see more than to try to get people to do these kind of jobs. But back to your question is somebody that’s not open to make things diverse, especially for the people that they serve. I just think that I just feel it’s wrong.
Dr. Ashley Taylor: Right. And the diversity piece and the inclusion piece, they work hand in hand, but they are two separate things. So you can have an organization that has the representation, but is there inclusion there? Are those representatives being included in the decision-making process? Are they really being given a seat at the table?
Dr. Kathleen Love: Well I guess I have to say I’ve gotten good experience. So the rape center, yes. We had different doctors from all over that was on our board at the rape center. The women that I worked with were from different backgrounds.
When I became a police officer, if you look at North Charleston, they have a good amount of women in the upper chain of command. African-American. I’d say probably Hispanic is not represented and we don’t have Asian represented. We just don’t have any that work for us, or it might be mixed.
But I think that the chiefs in the past, especially Chief Burgess right now, he has asked for an audit and investigation from outside, just to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can to make it more diverse. And he’s not afraid to let an outside come in and investigate, because we have a good, I know I’m retired, but I still feel like I’m part of it, that they have a good, diverse upper command staff.
Dr. Ashley Taylor: That’s one of the efforts. What are the other efforts that the organization is taking to develop a more diverse and equitable work environment?
Dr. Kathleen Love: Getting out into the communities. There are religious leaders, like I told you, in the civilians out there, the advocates that you see on the news, the NAACP, the [Action Network], they all come in and they’ll talk and discuss in the police department in these meetings. And then they have the different communities of religion from the different backgrounds will also come in. They’ll meet with the upper chain of command. And I was lucky when I was there to be able to be in those meetings, because I’m such a community-oriented officer that the chain of command would let me come on in. And everybody would have a seat at the table and get to say what they needed to say.
That doesn’t mean everybody agreed, but everybody understood where everybody was coming from. That this is their issue. What we can help over here. We might not be able to change this or that. In that certain area, they wanted more African-American police officers, because it predominantly was African-American, but Chief Burgess wanted to make sure that they’re all over the city, not just in one area. So there was back and forth talk about that.
So I think it’s an open discussion. And letting them come out and ride with the officers that help make changes. And I think it also helped when you think until you’re out there and in the trenches, I feel that we changed a lot of minds by bringing them out in a day-to-day police world.
Dr. Ashley Taylor: Well, it sounds like the effort is definitely being made to bring everyone together and to really give voice to the different communities that are being served.
Dr. Kathleen Love: Like I mentioned earlier. I think the good example of all of it is if you looked back in 2015 until now with the officer-involved shootings. And everybody’s afraid to talk about it. We can’t be afraid to talk about it. If an officer’s wrong an officer’s wrong. And we need to be able to talk about that. And that doesn’t mean every officer is wrong.
I think that officers get frustrated or defeated when they feel that they’re doing a good job and being the right way out there and everybody’s against them. So having the outside community come in and talk, that has helped.
Also, I think that whatever we were doing up to 2015 was effective, because, like I said, we didn’t have riots going on in our city. The people from Michigan and the different areas came knocking on the doors and asked them to come protest. And North Charleston citizens did not.
We opened up a forum, we let everybody speak and not many people showed. It was more outsiders than our own community. So I think it’s a slow process, but I think open communication has helped that. I also think that, like I keep saying, everybody wants to be listened to and have a voice.
And I think North Charleston has allowed that. The mayor is very supportive to listen to everybody. His door is open to all these leaders. He has met with them, had breakfast with them. So when you have a mayor and a chief that work hand in hand to make the community better, I think that’s what helps too. And I think they also recognize the bad officers and they get rid of them, like quick. And you can’t be afraid to do that.
Dr. Ashley Taylor: That’s a huge step.
Dr. Kathleen Love: It’s very huge. They fired Slager immediately. And that’s just a big case, but I’m talking the little cases that don’t make the news. People don’t realize that can’t be publicized, because everybody has when internal affairs that’s not open record, unless somebody FOIAs it. So they don’t go out and publicize it.
But there’s been more officers disciplined. There’s been more officers got fired for bad behavior and not doing the right thing. And I think that that helped things in the community that they’ve seen that if somebody did something wrong, they’re just not going to move them somewhere else. They’re going to take care of that issue right now. And that’s important that you take care of anybody that is being unethical or illegal in policing.
Dr. Ashley Taylor: Absolutely. So overall, what would your recommendation be for organizations and organizational leaders?
Dr. Kathleen Love: I think you have to open your doors and listen to the community. I think that you need people from different community backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, religious backgrounds, and listen to what happened to them, personal issues. And then have an open forum so everybody has a voice. You also invite them to say: How do we get people to come work for us from these different backgrounds? Help me make this happen.
Dr. Ashley Taylor: Well, Dr. Love, I want to thank you so much for agreeing to have this conversation with me. Your knowledge and experience is invaluable.
Dr. Kathleen Love: Thank you so much. And I’m so happy that you’re doing this to educate the communities out there, because the more we talk about it, the better that it gets out there to the public and we can make change.
Dr. Ashley Taylor: And we will keep the conversation going. I’m Dr. Ashley Taylor, and I’ve been speaking with Dr. Kathleen Love. Thank you for listening.