Ed Murray, the mayor of Seattle, recently declared that 2014 will be a year of training for police officers in the city. Local officials worked with federal agencies to come up with a plan that would address past problems in protocol, and many of the proposed changes are going into effect this year.
Seattle law enforcement turns attention to training
The Department of Justice worked with Seattle agencies to set up a new framework for police training. According to The Seattle Times, the changes include the creation Community Police Commission, which provides community input for reforms, and federal oversight for many new programs. Ultimately, the city hopes that a new protocol will limit escalation during confrontations between civilians and officers.
The need for a new system traces back to a 2011 investigation conducted by the Department of Justice. It found that the Seattle police used excessive force and personal bias in resolving many situations. Mayor Murray hopes to address these problems by focusing on new and improved training practices.
"It really is about getting the training right," Murray said during a local news conference. "Developing training manuals and programs to translate the policies that we're deciding on — getting those in place and activating them."
Murray specifically cited a few basic training practices that could bring about positive change, KUOW reports, such as training officers in Seattle instead of the suburbs. Technological upgrades and more comprehensive weapons training are also on the horizon.
The process is constantly evolving to face challenges
Seattle is not the first city to undergo a significant change to law enforcement training programs, but it could become the model for future rehabilitation. Problems can crop up in any city at any time, and each location must do its part to prevent them from reoccurring.
In Los Angeles, the city's police department recently faced criticism for actions taken during the manhunt for Christopher Dorner. During that operation, eight police officers reportedly violated protocol in the course of a shootout, firing bullets into a car and ultimately injuring two women.
The Dorner manhunt underscores the unpredictability of real-life scenarios. According to The Associated Press, the training that these officers received prior to the incident should have supplied them with the right information and a proper course of action to follow. Instead, the individuals acted outside of policy. Whether the outcome of this case is retraining, suspension or termination, a clear need exists to change training practices to better drill appropriate officer responses.
Former Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who according to The Seattle Times was actively involved in setting up the city's new training program, believes other cities could soon begin implementing similar changes. A task force in Albuquerque, for example, recently called for sweeping changes to the city's police departments, including a Civilian Police Oversight Agency to investigate complaints against officers. According to the Albuquerque Journal, these potential regulations are the result of a report commissioned after a civil rights investigation in the city, launched by the Department of Justice.
While the end result of the report and its recommendations remains to be seen, the future successes or challenges of the Seattle police force could impact how law enforcement agencies across the country respond to and work to overcome past problems.
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