A new human relations training program of the San Diego Police Department began Wednesday with a seminar on leadership to help top police officials effectively communicate with their staff.
City officials, consultants and Police Chief Bill Kolender began creating the 18-month program in late 1985 after the City Council voted to upgrade the department's human relations program. A subsequent Citizens' Advisory Group on Police-Community Relations also recommended upgrading the program.
The program is mandatory for the 1,400 officers and 300 other personnel of the department, police spokesman Bill Robinson said.
The program will emphasize improving communication and human-relations skills; psychological well-being, and managing stress and conflict, Kolender said.
Kolender told the more than 60 top police officials at the Marina Village seminar that implementation of the program was not a result of poor performance by officers or the department's command staff.
"I have said it before and I will say it again: I think you are the finest command staff this department has ever had," Kolender said. "I am extremely pleased with you. But the key to this whole program is going to be a year and a half from now.
"How are the officers going to feel about themselves then? What kind of job will they be doing? And most important of all, is the community of San Diego going to say that we are doing a better job? That's our goal."
The City Council, led by Councilman William Jones, began questioning the effectiveness of the department's Human Relations Training Program as a result of the 1985 shooting of one officer and wounding of another by Sagon Penn.
Penn's attorneys in the ongoing trial say Penn was a victim of a racially motivated attack by police.
"My job at that time was to paint a picture of reality to get council members to vote for a new program," Jones said. "The reality was that, while we may have had an advanced and effective human relations training program at one time, we no longer did and this was a fact."
Speakers at the Wednesday program stressed that participants must be optimistic and the focus would not specifically be on minorities, but on human relations with all ethnic backgrounds in a variety of situations.
Both Kolender and guest speaker Kenneth Blanchard, author of the best seller, "The One-Minute Manager," said criticism from police personnel has been and will be an expected response to a new program.