When Dave Moore became Janesville’s police chief in 2009, he moved to strengthen the department’s relationship with communities of color.
“As I looked over the horizon, I could see race relations was an issue for the policing industry,” he said.
He wanted to ensure that Janesville did not have the serious divide between law enforcement and minorities that was happening elsewhere.
“I did not look at it as us having a problem,” Moore said. “Instead, I wanted to earn the confidence of the community. We are always trying to build trust, and we want to ensure that all people in our community, including minorities, have a voice.”
In the next decade, Moore brought cutting-edge national training in the area of law enforcement and racial justice to his department.
He established Latino and African-American advisory committees to keep communication open between residents and police.
He even authorized and attended small neighborhood block parties to build relationships with the people who live there.
On Saturday, Moore received recognition for the vital work.
The YWCA Rock County honored the Janesville resident with the 2019 YWCA Racial Justice Award.
The presentation came at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration at Blackhawk Technical College.
A YWCA committee selects recipients annually to recognize those who embrace racial inclusion and equity. In addition to the YWCA’s award, Moore also received the UAW Local 95 Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Service Award.
“This is completely unexpected,” Moore said in an earlier interview about the YWCA recognition. “A police officer doesn’t receive this kind of an award too often. I hear of too many places where there is a rift between minority communities and the police.”
The award is not about him, he said.
“It’s an award for the police department, the officers, our community partners and liaison groups,” Moore explained. “Without their support and action, this kind of effort doesn’t go anywhere.”
A decade of training
The first trainer Moore invited to Janesville was a retired FBI agent who talked about the honor of policing.
Later, he followed with Lorie Fridell, a professor of criminology at the University of South Florida.
She presented training on fair and impartial policing and talked about implicit biases and how they affect well-intentioned people.
“We all have biases, even though we don’t recognize them,” Moore said. “We need to be aware of them to make sure they don’t affect our decision-making. If we are not making our decisions for the right reasons, it will erode confidence in the department.”
Moore also sent officers to become trainers in fair and impartial policing so they could do the training internally.
“Having had the opportunity to go through this training, I can speak of its effectiveness in dealing with unintentional biases, racial profiling, discrimination and the like,” said Santo Carfora, who nominated Moore for the racial justice award.
Carfora is a private consultant in human relations and diversity training for schools and businesses. He also is a member of the African American Liaison Advisory Committee.
In nominating Moore, Carfora praised the police chief for “taking on the task of training his officers to be more aware, sensitive and proactive in treating all people in his jurisdiction with dignity and respect.”
In 2015, Moore brought a Department of Justice program on legitimacy and procedural justice to his department.
All 125 employees, not just the officers, were among the first in the nation to get the training.
“When it comes to the core beliefs of an organization, everyone has to attend the same training so there is shared understanding,” Moore said.
The program emphasized treating people with respect, giving them a voice, listening to what they have to say and making fair decisions.
“This program works on establishing relationships and developing trust within the community,” Carfora said.
Relationship-building is emphasized each summer when the police department and the Police Explorers host cookouts in city neighborhoods, Carfora added.
More training on diversity and inclusion is planned for the department in 2019.
Moore explained why continued learning is important:
“The police affect people in the most delicate areas of their lives,” he said. “We take away their freedom; we search their homes, and we are authorized to use deadly force. With all that authority comes great responsibility. We need to do our job correctly, honestly and without bias.”
The department has made great strides, “but there is still work ahead,” Moore said.
Liaison advisory groups
In addition to training, two groups keep members of the police department and people in the Hispanic and African-American communities talking.
They are the African American Liaison and Latino Liaison advisory committees.
“Chief Moore has shown an unwavering commitment to social and racial justice here in Janesville,” wrote Lonnie Brigham Jr. in a letter supporting Moore’s nomination.
Brigham is chairman of the African American Liaison Advisory Committee.
He called both the Latino and African-American groups “very effective in their mission to help Janesville erase its negative image” as a city with a reputation for being racially biased.
Brigham was raised by a police officer in Chicago. Before coming to Janesville, he worked as a paralegal with a Chicago law firm that sued police departments for civil rights violations.
“My life has come full circle when it comes to police officers,” Brigham said. “Now I work as an advocate for policing.”
He has lived in Janesville almost 19 years and proudly calls the city his second home.
Rene Bue, chairwoman of the Latino Liaison Advisory Committee, also wrote a letter supporting Moore’s nomination.
In the more than eight years that the Latino committee has been in existence, complaints to service providers about racial profiling have decreased, Bue said.
She praised Moore for encouraging his officers to take a Street Cop Spanish workshop so they can communicate basic information to Spanish speakers until a bilingual officer arrives.
“This has gone a long way to bridging the gap between the Janesville Police Department and the Latino community in Janesville,” Bue said. “It is clear that an effort is being made to work with the Latino community.”
She called Moore “a leader in our community who models racial justice in a very visible way.”
Moore has hired Latinos and Spanish-speaking non-Latinos and seeks out people of color so they can reflect the community, Bue said.
Moore wants to hire black and Latino officers to mirror changing demographics in Janesville, which has a growing minority population.
“But I think it is much more important to have a culturally competent police department,” he said. “That means a department that is fair, honest and without bias in the people we serve.”
A Janesville native
A 42-year veteran of the police department, Moore attributes his success to decades of building relationships.
He grew up in Janesville, graduated from Craig High School in 1974 and began his career as a patrol officer in 1977.
Moore’s parents worked at General Motors and Parker Pen, and he had no family members who were police officers.
In spite of that, Moore knew he wanted to be a police officer at age 12 after he witnessed a terrifying event.
He and friends were playing by the railroad tracks on the east side of the Rock River, where they noticed a grass fire.
The fire attracted many people, including a 3-year-old girl who wandered onto the railroad tracks as a train was coming.
Everyone froze except for one brave Janesville police officer who responded immediately and risked his life to save the child.
At the time, Moore had one powerful and life-defining thought:
“I want to be like that police officer, a protector of the community.”
Anna Marie Lux is a Sunday columnist for The Gazette. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.