Some 1,200 NYPD police recruits are in the midst of four days of "multi-cultural immersion" training to help them better understand and respect the communities they serve.

The training was instituted in 2007, according to the NYPD's website, and in 2009 included presentations by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, commanding officers and prominent community members to help them understand multiple ethnic and religious communities, sexual orientations and youth perspectives.

Bishop Lester Williams, senior pastor for the Community Church of Christ in Jamaica, Queens, sat on a similar panel Wednesday at the Apollo Theater observed by the recruits.

"I told them how I hate it when you just stop me and say, 'license and registration,' without telling me why I'm being stopped and without even knowing who I am,"Williams said. "It's the attitude," some officers display that can be perceived as insulting and even threatening, he said. The training is important, said Williams, because it is not in response to tragedies, such as the Sean Bell shooting, but "before the fact" and helps diverse recruits understand diverse communities. But, he said, "I'd really like to see them go into these communities and listen. Dialogue is very important."

Ryan Mahoney, the board president for CAIR-NY (Council on American-Islamic Relations), said that while he welcomed the training, his organization had not been contacted to participate or identify experts to participate. "Credible training must avoid stereotyping and include expert Muslim representatives. It was not long ago that the NYPD screened a hateful anti-Muslim propaganda film to over 1,500 officers," Mahoney complained. He also called upon the NYPD "to end their vast unconstitutional spying program."

The NYPD has two training blocks in the Immersion Course Schedule dedicated to the Muslim community and Commissioner Ray Kelly has been presented with a plaque from the Muslim Advisory Council for the Department's efforts to engage the community, said a police spokesman. The spokesman also forwarded materials indicating that the movie, "The Third Jihad," which was shown in 2012, had been replaced in the curriculum after complaints.Amardeep Singh, program director and co-founder of The Sikh Coalition, said his group has been participating in the training for two years. "We share with officers that the turban is an article of faith and not a hat that can be taken on or off at will," and that when entering Sikh houses of worship in non-emergencies, officers should remove their shoes, Singh said. Information about Sikh beliefs is also shared to increase understanding and awareness, he said.

(Sheila Anne Feeney)