ORLANDO, Fla. – As part of field training at the University of Central Florida Police Department, all recruits are now required to visit the Wells’ Built Museum of African American History and Culture.
The building on South Street in Orlando dates back to the 1920s when Dr. William Monroe Wells, one of the first doctors in Central Florida, built a hotel and casino on the site in Orlando’s historically-Black Parramore neighborhood. At the time, there were no hotels catering to Black people in Central Florida.
The hotel-turned-museum celebrates notable Black firsts and figures. Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles are on the hotel’s register.
Nina Stone, a UCF PD recruit and former WNBA basketball player, said her visit was eye-opening.
“Thoughts coming here - I didn’t actually realize it was Black Orlando and white Orlando,” Stone said. “I’ve been here 11 years, I’m from Indiana, and actually been to the museum twice. As law enforcement, we’re here to lay down the law but if we can get in tune with what’s going on at community, and not just the Black community, I feel that’s very important in law enforcement.”
Officer Reggie Jackson is the field training officer in charge of the three recruits who visited last week.
“You need to move with the time that’s going on,” Jackson said. “And now we’re in a difficult time with law enforcement but we’re just taking this time to be more educated and more knowledgeable and educate our officers as well.”
Jackson said the visit to the museum, like all of the other training now required of recruits -- racial and emotional intelligence, anti-bias, crisis intervention and autism -- is to make sure officers get it right.
“We realize we need to take time, we need to be able to look at this from a community aspect, not just an officer standpoint, look at it from their eyes,” Jackson said. “At UCF we have a very, very diverse community and we have all different types of students and nationalities of all backgrounds.”
Jackson said many of the recruits, like Arthur King from Miami and Katie Proffer from St. Louis, are new to Central Florida.
“When you come here the first thing you want to know is where do they come from, how are they raised, what type of adversity they have and you have, what are their moral ethics,” King said. “When I first got here I was like, ‘OK another museum I haven’t seen before,’ but when I first got here it was more so of the thought that there is a really deep culture within Orlando I didn’t know of.”
Proffer said the museum is overflowing with history and learning the history will make her a better police officer.
“It’s good to learn the culture, how people communicate, how they see you and how you see them as well,” Proffer said. “The new way of policing is community policing and I believe that’s going to make a big difference.”
The three recruits will hit the streets in the next few weeks and any or all of them could be assigned to UCF’s downtown Orlando campus, not far from the museum.
All 90 UCF police officers have already been to the museum, including UCF Police Chief Carl Metzger.