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New Style of Police Training Aims to Produce Guardians Not Warriors

The police recruits arrived in pairs in the woods outside Seattle. For days, they had been calming their minds through meditation and documenting life’s beauty in daily journals. Mindful and centered, they now faced a test: a mentally ill man covered in feces and mumbling to a rubber chicken.

The feces was actually oatmeal and chocolate pudding, the man was another recruit, and the goal of this mock training exercise was to peacefully bring him into custody. The first recruits approached gingerly, trying to engage the man in conversation. When that failed, they moved in and wrestled him to the ground.

“We needed to find a way to help him. He obviously had a screw loose,” said Aaron Scott, a cadet from Bellevue, Wash. Scott briefly considered using his baton, he said. “But I thought that might be too much.”

For the past three years, every police recruit in the state has undergone this style of training at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, where officials are determined to produce “guardians of democracy” who serve and protect instead of “warriors” who conquer and control.

Gone is the military-boot-camp atmosphere. Gone are the field exercises focused on using fists and weapons to batter suspects into submission. Gone, too, is a classroom poster that once warned recruits that “officers killed in the line of duty use less force than their peers.”

If your overarching identity is ‘I’m a warrior,’ then you will approach every situation like you must conquer and win,” said Sue Rahr, the commission’s executive director. “You may have a conflict where it is necessary for an officer to puff up and quickly take control. But in most situations, it’s better if officers know how to de-escalate, calm things down, slow down the action.”

Training is at the heart of the national debate over police use of force. So far this year, police have shot and killed more than 900 people, according to a Washington Post database tracking such shootings — more than twice the number recorded in any previous year by federal officials. Anti-brutality activists and some law enforcement leaders argue that if police were better trained to de-escalate conflict, some of those people might still be alive.

Read full article here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2015/12/10/new-style-of-p...