Educate yourself before criticizing law enforcement
Recently, we’ve done some training that has gained local media attention: The Active Shooter Training we did in the Dodge County Courthouse in December, and the Simulation Training (shoot/no shoot scenarios) that we did last week.
The majority of responses we heard about our efforts were very positive. However, I also heard a few critical of our training – that we should focus on more realistic training for our area, on crisis intervention training, or training on mental illness response.
While we certainly appreciate hearing the positive comments, I think it’s also important we respond to those questioning our efforts. First of all, let’s address the “realistic” comment.
In our Active Shooter training, we focused on the challenges of responding to a mass shooting (4+ victims injured or killed excluding the subject/suspect/perpetrator, one location). In the first 15 days of 2017 there were 13 Mass Shooting incidents recorded nationwide – from Winstonville, Miss. (population 191) to Chicago, Ill., an average of nearly one a day.
We’ve had officer-involved shootings in Mankato, Austin, Fillmore County, and here in Dodge County in Hayfield. So to suggest that officer-involved shootings aren’t realistic here in SE Minnesota is unfortunately not true. In 2016, there were 16 fatal officer-involved shootings in Minnesota. While these numbers are a far cry from the numbers seen in states like Illinois, they are still concerning for everyone. When you look at the facts, you’ll see it’s training like this that can help prevent fatal officer-involved shootings.
Let’s address the comment regarding our needing to focus more on mental illness response. In Simulation Training, we put our deputies in real life scenarios to learn how to safely respond to high stress situations, often where mental illness is a factor, and where weapons may be involved. More importantly we focus on alternative techniques and options available to de-escalate and avoid having to shoot a suspect – with communication and/or less lethal force options. Our deputy’s most important tool or weapon isn’t found on their duty belt, it’s between their ears - their communication skillset. We call it “verbal judo” - using one’s words to prevent, de-escalate, or end an attempted assault or attack.
The simulator provides our deputies realistic training where we can coach them on verbal de-escalation, while also training on how to respond when there is either no time for “verbal judo”, when it may be ineffective, or simply when use of force is necessary to protect the deputy or others involved or in the area.
Do we send our deputies to Crisis Intervention Training to learn how to deal with mental illness? Sure we do. But this training puts our men and women in situations where they have to make split second decisions, deciding how to best react and end a volatile and dangerous situation. You don’t get this kind of training in a book, classroom, or table top discussion. This gives us and our deputies an opportunity to see how they handle stressful situations like this first hand.
Too often we see emotional responses to law enforcement tactics and training without any facts to back them up. We recently observed how our Active Shooter Training, which included multiple agency response tactics, incident command training, and mass casualty recovery - really helped in our response to the McNeilus explosion in Dodge Center.
Before you so quickly criticize law enforcement, a profession often twisted and misrepresented in the main stream media and in Hollywood, I suggest a better alternative might be to educate yourself first. Talk with your local law enforcement and ask questions, sit in on training that you question, participate in a ride-along, etc. Our tactics and training tools that are most often criticized may someday save your life.
Scott Rose has been the sheriff of Dodge County since 2015. He writes a monthly column in this newspaper and the columns can also be found on the county’s website.