In the wake of the deadly officer-involved shooting of a wood carver last month, many in the community questioned the training methods of the Seattle Police Department. Today, SPD invited PhinneyWood and other media outlets to get a behind-the-scenes look at some new training techniques being put in place, along with methods currently being used.
“We did talk about deploying more tasers– using less lethal force options,” said police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb.
Officer demonstrates taser techniques
Not all Seattle Police officers carry tasers, but one new step involves arming more officers with the devices. This year, SPD says taser use has actually dropped to an average of seven incidents a month. They credit the decrease to more people knowing about tasers and the impact they can have on the human body.
“We talk people into custody the vast amount of the time,” said Officer Chris Myers.
Another new program that is already underway requires every member of SPD to take a racial profiling course, with the goal of changing the culture in the department. Verbal judo, the use of words insteads of hands and weapons, is also being taught along with an increased emphasis on deploying crisis intervention team officers to deal with people who may have mental or medical issues.
SPD allowed the media to try out its “shoot or don’t shoot” simulator that puts officers through different scenarios. Officers also go through tactics training in real-time mock situations. After the simulations, instructors debrief the officers to find out why they reacted the way they did.
Another reporter tries out the simulator (above)
“Training has become a significant issue,” said Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer. “Every single day we’re on the job we learn something.”
Deputy Chief Kimerer will oversee a review starting next month into the fatal shooting of wood carver John T. Williams. Officials did not take questions on the specifics of the Williams case since it is still under investigation. Our newspaper partner the Seattle Times reports the U.S. Justice Department is now monitoring the case.
Summary of additions to SPD training:
- Putting more tasers into the hands of officers
- Racial profiling course
- Verbal judo
- Adding more members to the crisis intervention team