Many police departments across the country, with encouragement from the Justice Department, have opted for what they refer to as a guardian mentality, in which de-escalation of potentially violent situations and similar techniques are emphasized.
Some departments, however, believe that a more traditional and aggressive so-called warrior approach is necessary.Officer Yanez underwent a two-day training course called “The Bulletproof Warrior” in May 2014, according to records from the City of St. Anthony, a suburb near St. Paul. The training combined the two approaches.The Minneapolis Star Tribune first reported that Officer Yanez took the course. It was conducted by a company called Calibre Press in Glen Ellyn, Ill., owned by Jim Glennon, a former police lieutenant in Lombard, Ill., according to its website.Mr. Glennon said in an interview that the main focus of the course was to teach police officers to maintain a sense of flexibility in their work, which he calls “balance,” and involves when to use force and at what level, given the circumstances. He said the course did not teach officers to have a warrior mentality.“There’s no cookie-cutter approach to this — that’s what we teach,” he said. “We tell them that they have a three to four times greater chance of dropping dead from a heart attack than from being shot by a felon with a gun.”Asked about the guardian and warrior approaches, Mr. Glennon said, “If anyone says they are mutually exclusive, that’s nuts.”
Critics of the seminars say that the training offered, which includes watching videos showing officers being shot, runs counter to the reforms departments must adopt if they are to win back trust, especially of black residents.“Courses like this reinforce the thinking that everyone is out to get police officers,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a research and policy organization based in Washington. “This teaches officers, ‘If you hesitate, you could lose your life.’ It is the exact opposite of the way many police chiefs are going.”The “Bulletproof Warrior” booklet handed out at the company’s seminars addresses warfare as much as police work. A copy of the booklet was obtained by The New York Times. It has charts and graphs on “Combat Efficiency” and “Perceptual Distortions in Combat.”The booklet portrays a world of constant and increased threat to officers, despite more than two decades of declining violent crime in the United States, and the fact that the last few years have been among the safest to be an American police officer.
One section is titled “Pre-attack Indicators.” It says, “Unfortunately, the will to survive is all too often trained out of the psyches of our police officers,” and warns of “predators” and “adversaries” who are younger than officers and who have “been in more gunfights and violent encounters.” It advises: “An attack on you is a violent act! What is the only way to overcome that violence?”Another booklet distributed at seminars, “Anatomy of Force Incidents,” repeatedly makes the point that officers are allowed to — and need to — use more force than they may believe, and to use it pre-emptively. “Myth: The officer must use the minimal amount of force necessary to affect their lawful law enforcement objectives,” it says, and “Myth: An officer must use the ‘least intrusive’ or ‘best’ option when using force.”
Officers at police academies have always been trained in de-escalation, but there has been less emphasis on such methods over the past 20 years. A recent Police Executive Research Forum survey of 281 police agencies found that the average young officer received 58 hours of firearms training and 49 hours of defensive tactical training, but only eight hours of de-escalation training.The training regimens at nearly all of the nation’s police academies continue to emphasize military-style exercises, including significant hours spent practicing drill, formation and saluting, said Maria R. Haberfeld, a professor of police science at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.