Yesterday, Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis announced during his annual State of the City address he would no longer allow police officers to attend “fear-based or warrior training” classes. His reason for the ban is the courses make officers overly aggressive and that’s counterproductive to community policing.
“Fear-based trainings violate the values at the very heart of community policing. When you’re conditioned to believe that every person encountered poses a threat to your existence, you simply cannot be expected to build out meaningful relationships with those same people,” Frey said in his address.
Frey, like many others, seems to have stereotyped officers into caricatures of Tackleberry from the “Police Academy” movies. His decision is based upon stereotypes and anecdotical observation and is just plain wrong.
I have attended “officer survival” training. It didn’t turn me into a paranoid, trigger happy, knuckle dragger. In fact, it had quite the opposite effect. The training taught me to be more aware of my surroundings, be more deliberate about defusing encounters, and taught me how to safely engage dangerous individuals.
Cited by many in the decision is the Philando Castile shooting that occurred in 2016. A St. Anthony police officer shot Castile thinking he was going for his concealed firearm. The officer had taken a “Bulletproof Warrior” class. My personal thoughts are the officer overreacted and allowed his fear to dictate his response. That is contrary to what officer survival classes teach. You are taught to control your fear.
No research I have found shows any correlation between training and officer-involved shootings. Policy is being dictated strictly by political expediency and “what they think”, rather than “what they know.” I wonder if the mayor or his staff members spoke with anyone who has attended the training?
Here is some of the information Frey didn’t cite in his decision. Fifty-two police officers were shot to death last year. That’s not a big number given there are nearly a million law enforcement officers in the country. This is probably due to the excellent training officers receive in staying safe and alive.
There is no data that accurately tells us how many officers were shot and injured in any given year. The closest I can find is data gathered by LESMA Law Enforcement Supporters for Media Accountability. According to their data, 278 police officers were shot and injured in 2016. That’s a lot of bad guys with guns shooting at the police.
There is also the fact that over 8,000 officers a year are injured by violence. The goal of the training is simple. It’s to avoid dying and not getting hurt.
The day before the mayor was making his announcement, police officers in the city of Fremont, CA were ambushed by a suspect for what appears to be no reason. Quick thinking and a tactical response kept all the officers alive and the community safe.
There is also no data that tells us how many officers have been shot at and escaped injury. We don’t know in any given year how many armed suspects police officers encounter and successfully take into custody without harm to anyone.
Frey believes police officers are trained to be trigger happy. Police officers are trained to stay alive. They are trained to keep others alive. They are trained to react and make split-second decisions in the most taxing of situations. It’s not paranoia when the threats are real.
A department has a responsibility to evaluate training and ensure it is conducted professionally and fits the department’s objectives and goals. Training decisions should be based on the realities of the job, not on political pandering. In this case I think Frey is basing his decision on perception rather than factual information.