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Holocaust History Center hosts program for Arizona law officers

Bryan Davis, executive director of the Jewish History Museum, leads cadets from the Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center on a tour of the Holocaust History Center, Jan. 11. (Courtesy Jewish History Museum)

Tucson’s Holocaust History Center is raising the consciousness of new law enforcement officers.

The “What You Do Matters: Lessons from the Holocaust” program marks a new educational partnership between the Jewish History Museum/Holocaust History Center and law enforcement in Arizona.

The classes focus on teaching new cadets about the Holocaust, with a particular focus on the consequences that can occur when a government shifts the role of police from protecting people to a policy of abusing basic human rights.

Bryan Davis, executive director at the Jewish History Museum and Holocaust History Center, says partnering with local law enforcement for this new initiative holds deep significance.

“It’s very meaningful, and it’s a new dimension of our work,” says Davis, “and really imagining this museum as an educational center for everyone and a space for the whole community.”

The program is an offshoot of the “Law Enforcement and Society: The Lessons of the Holocaust” initiative launched by the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Prescott and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. In 2006, Prescott officials attended the pilot program designed to inform elected leaders, judges and law enforcement about the Holocaust and the inherent dangers of obeying an authoritarian regime.

Jamon Lane, a newly sworn officer for the Tucson Police Department, says touring the Holocaust History Center earlier this month for the “What You Do Matters” program left an indelible impact. Attending the forum solidified his responsibility as an officer, says Lane, and the valuable role police play in creating community partnerships.

“It’s not always about the police side of things, we also have a community that we serve,” says Lane. “And again, we’re trying to build that relationship, and trying to bridge that gap, and let everyone know that we’re here to help.”

Lane, 28, says he joined the force in order to affect change and become a positive role model.  “I wanted to be the change that I want to see; I feel like I have a lot to bring to this job, to this profession and this agency.”

This new initiative can help peace officers examine their impact on society, he says.

“It challenges you to think about why you’re really in this profession, and what you want to bring to the table,” he says. “It makes you think, ‘what am I here to do, what am I going to change and how am I going to make that change?’”

The new program kicked off on Jan. 11 with a full day of lectures held at the TPD’s downtown headquarters, followed by a tour of the Center’s campus that focused on the Holocaust History Center, featuring testimony from local Holocaust survivors.

At least four more cohorts of Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center cadets will receive this training, with sessions scheduled until January 2018.The classes are held the day before graduation. According to TPD’s estimate, 150 to 200 new peace officers throughout Arizona will graduate each year.

Davis says the new initative got its start when he invited Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and TPD Chief of Police Chris Magnus to tour the Center last summer. During the meeting, Davis shared an article with Chief Magnus about the role law enforcement played in the Holocaust in Belgium and provided the local leaders information about the “What You Do Matters” program.

The program is tailored not only to educate the new officers about the Holocaust, Davis says “but also to look at 150 years of civic engagement, economic development, cultural enrichment, philanthropy, and all of those ways that Jewish people have contributed to our community.”

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