Public Forum Focuses on Flawed Police Education

Minneapolis, MN – Recent controversy regarding ‘fear-based’ training for law enforcement officers has led to dozens of Minnesota officers being pulled from training courses and a protest outside of the Mall of America, where a training was held on May 16. On Wednesday, July 11, a public event called ‘The Truth About Fear-Based Training: A Forum on Police Education’ took place in Minneapolis in attempts to “shed some light on the paranoia behind brutality” and to answer the following questions:

  • Who is behind these courses?
  • Why are they teaching police officers to be unnaturally fearful?
  • Why are the course trainers promoting indiscriminate killing by police?

Unicorn Riot livestreamed this event [This post has been updated (1am CDT July 13) to include a review of some of the contents of the forum itself – scroll down]:

Fear-based police trainings like Bulletproof Warrior drew heavy criticism after the killing of Philando Castile by St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez. Materials from one of the trainings that Yanez attended were handed out by members of Communities United Against Police Brutality during a press conference outside of the Mall of America while a Bulletproof training was happening inside the mall.

See The Bulletproof Warrior training manual by Calibre Press below.

The-BulletProof-Warrior-Training-Manual-2014

Read the Anatomy of Force Incidents training manual that also used in the 2014 Bulletproof Training seminar below.

Anatomy-of-Field-Force-Incidents-Training-Manual-2014

At the same May 16 event where the training materials were handed to the public, Valerie Castile gave an impassioned speech railing against the fear-based trainings that law enforcement officers are allowed to take. She went as far to say that the police officers, like the one that killed her son Philando Castile, are being trained “to become terrorists.

Police operating in a fear-based, shoot-first mentality has impacted many lives in the Twin Cities alone in the past five years, with many people dying at the hands of the police within moments of having an encounter. The police killings of Justine Damond, Philando Castile, Jamar Clark, Cordale Handy, and Thurman Blevins all happened in a matter of less than 100 seconds.

Many critics have pointed to implicit racism from Twin Cities area police towards people of color, and some have called for better training for officers.

The fact that there is such a loose certification model for accrediting trainers to sponsor or teach courses, used for continuing education credits that police must receive, is what many see as a root cause of the problem of how police interact with people.

According to the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), every police officer “must complete a minimum of forty-eight hours of continuing education” to maintain and renew their licensing and they themselves can pick and choose what courses to take.

Every active and inactive peace officer and active part-time peace officer must complete a minimum of forty-eight hours of continuing education within the three-year licensing period in order to maintain and renew their license … It is the officer’s discretion which law enforcement related courses they complete to satisfy the remainder of the required forty-eight hours.” – POST

Trainings on Orders for Protection, No Contact Orders, and Restraining Orders are the only courses that have actual approval guidelines (originating from Minnesota’s 2007 legislative session laws on domestic violence) that focus on how the training course operates.

Apart from those courses, there is a much easier process to attain approval for becoming an accredited sponsor of a training. Besides submitting proper documentation, goals, objectives, timeline, and outline of instruction, the sponsor (a school, agency, individual or organization that has received authority from the board to provide approved courses for continuing education credit) is required minimally to have a course related to law enforcement, “based on the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to be a peace officer“, and be able to prove that it meets an educational need for law enforcement.

See the Course Approval Requirements in the picture below and check out the Continuing Education Course Approval Application here [PDF].

As a response to years of extended protests against brutality and killings by police, the new statute 626.8349 in Minnesota law now requires yearly training in newly developed courses of Crisis Intervention and Mental Illness Response [PDF], Conflict Management and Mediation [PDF], and Cultural Diversity and Implicit Bias [PDF].

About 50 people took part in the informative two and a half hour public forum in South Minneapolis on July 11. Speakers focused a lot of time on trainers Dave Grossman, a former Army Colonel, Jim Glennon, a former police officer and owner of LifeLine Training and Calibre Press, and creator of Force Science, Bill Lewinski.

Mental health professional Sandi Simonson spoke against using fear as a driving emotion and asked these questions:

  • Has anyone considered the psychological ramifications for officers or any other individual who attends such training?
  • Has anyone considered that fear-based training may compound pre-existing bias?
  • Does it really serve, or does it harm communities, to have police training and now training in other professions as well, be so much influenced by a few companies that are so intertwined?

Simonson also touched on the connections of private for-profit companies to fear-based trainings and police departments in Minnesota.

Information sheet passed out during forum highlighting training companies and their connections.

Information sheet passed out during forum highlighting training companies and their connections.

Another topic during the forum was the killing of Thurman Blevins, who was shot by Ryan Kelly and Justin Schmidt, of the Minneapolis Police. Justin Schmidt is a course trainer. He is an Iraq War veteran and a police instructor and law enforcement advisor at Archway Defense.

After Blevins’ killing, Archway Defense took down Schmidt’s picture from the team section on their website and changed his name to just the initials, “J.S.”.

Researcher Rachael Rivard’s presentation poked holes into the specific trainers research practices, their data, their course materials, and their ‘psuedoscientific’ theories of “killology” and becoming ‘warriors’.

Criminal Justice professor Dr. Raj Sethuraju spoke about the Western world’s conceptualization of fear that has held grips over the mechanisms of the police force in the United States of America and further drives implicit biases.

Grossman is not the father of fear. Fear-based techniques have always been used by colonial masters. Colonization per se, was founded on, or is based on the foundation of fear.” – Dr. Raj Sethuraju

Sethuraju said that this fear-based control is what pushed white settlers to commit genocide and chattel slavery to create what is now known as the USA.

Dr. Sethuraju said “The idea of fear is based on racialized ideology, white supremacist ideology, that has been perpetuated in this past 400 years is still very much alive. So, when we train law enforcement officers, when people make associations with fear-based training, we continue to harness that racism in all our training.

He continued that for powers to push fear, there always has to be that ‘other’, and that the ‘other’ “always looks like a person of color, uncivilized, not conditioned enough to live in our society amongst us and it’s okay to imprison them.

One of the first things we should ask ourselves, Dr. Sethuraju said, is how do each one of us, as people, work on and answer how our own built-in biases affect our everyday lives.

Retired Minneapolis Police sergeant Michael Quinn, who ran a police academy from 1994-1999 attended the forum and spoke from the audience. Quinn, CEO of International Ethics and Leadership Training Bureau, wrote a book titled, ‘Walking With the Devil: The Police Code of Silence’ and helped instill the EPIC training into the New Orleans Police Department based on the book. Quinn said that he got death threats from police officers after writing the book.

He spoke against Bob Kroll, the President of the Minneapolis Police Federation, calling him “one of the biggest bullies on the whole police department” and said the culture within the Minneapolis Police Department, derived from leaders like Kroll, pushes back on officers who “step outside the lines” of silence by doing such things as not showing up during a back-up call or not showing up to give statements.

Quinn said that he knows Bill Lewinski, of Force Institute, and that he was around when the fear-based trainings were getting started in the 1990s.

Quinn said that Lewinski started out by “trying to show the reaction times by police officers and he has taken that so far over the edge that he is now selling this idea that you [police officers] can’t wait to see a weapon.

Quinn spoke of the work that happened with ethical training in New Orleans and said that “they have turned that department around” and that good cops want to hear that their superiors support good behavior.

They have dropped their use of force complaints against cops by 70% in a period of two years. They haven’t had an excessive force lawsuit in this period.” – Michael Quinn

While many organizers seek to educate the public about their perceptions of the dangers of police trainings that are fear-based, some push for better trainings, and some push for the abolition of the police entirely. Unicorn Riot will continue to cover this topic, as well as similar issues. See our past coverage of the controversial Bulletproof trainings:


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