Museum's program teaches police pitfalls that led to Holocaust

Arlington Police officers are getting a history lesson in leadership and ethics

Charles Swanigon

The Arlington Police Department has been taking part in a training program that focuses on the role law enforcement played in the Holocaust.

The program is called Law Enforcement and Society: Lessons of the Holocaust, and it's offered by the Dallas Holocaust Museum. Started in September 2016, the intent of the program is to help officers develop a better understanding of their personal responsibility as public servants. 

The idea for the training program came during a conversation between Dallas Holocaust Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins and Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez. They discussed methods for broadening the reach of the museum while simultaneously developing an ethics and leadership program for the Sheriff’s recruits.

The class is broken into two parts. The first part includes a tour of the museum, a photo analysis of the Holocaust, and a discussion of the slippery slope German police were on once they fell in line with the Nazis.

The second part is led by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Participants discuss the current public perception of law enforcement and the role it plays in communities and democracy.

“We focus on the now,” said Cheryl Drazin, Regional Director of the ADL. “We look at the stereotypes of law enforcement and what people think when law enforcement pops into their mind.”

After doing some research, Higgins discovered that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. already had a similar program called Law Enforcement and Society Training.

After deciding not to start an entirely new program, Higgins reached out to the ADL for support because they helped author the original program in Washington. With their assistance, the Dallas Holocaust Museum became certified to offer the training.

“The goal is for our visitors to come to this museum, understand its history, and think about the dangers of unchecked prejudice and hatred,” Higgins said. "The Holocaust is a paradigm of what happens when state-sponsored hatred is unchecked.”

When Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson learned of the class, he reached out to the museum. After attending the same course at the National museum in Washington, Johnson took several senior officers to the class at the Dallas facility last November. 

Deputy Chief Os Flores was one of those officers.

“I think the training is critical, because the lessons of the Holocaust help officers understand their role as protectors of the American people and the Constitution," Flores said. 

From his own experience, Flores said the training highlights the role law enforcement has in protecting the civil rights of all people, and cultivating and inspiring tolerance and understanding of others.

More than 100,000 local, regional, and federal officers have participated in the program at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum since it first started in 1999.

To get more information about this and other programs and events offered at the Dallas Holocaust Museum, call the museum at (214) 741-7500 or visit dallasholocaustmuseum.org.