Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and the nation watched.
Then it reacted. There were riots, death threats, protests, numerous arrests and attacks on law enforcement.
Questions were raised and police tactics criticized. The situation quickly escalated even though few details were immediately known about the confrontation between Brown and the officer.
Throughout the country, law enforcement officers deal with the public on a daily basis and most of the interactions end peacefully.
Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar talked with The News Tribune about police training and tactics related to use of force.
It depends on what you’re presented with at the time. As a police officer, you need to take training and common sense to dictate how you react to a certain situation.
One of my philosophies, one of the most important things you can learn as a police officer, is when not to exercise your authority. A lot of times people just want to be heard. If you just listen and let the person talk, nine times out of 10 that will get you the de-escalation that you need.
When you go in and you’re heavy-handed, that tends to aggravate people and they get angry.
One other thing I do is send officers to Dale Carnegie courses. It’s basically how-to-win-friends-and-influence-people-type of training. It works well for police.
Everything we do out there is selling. We’re selling the people the idea of calming down. We’re selling them the idea that they’re going to have to go into handcuffs; get into the back seat of the car; go to jail.
If you can walk them through the process, there’s less chance they’re going to be aggravated with you.
If somebody thinks the action was out of policy, the review will go to me and we’ll decide if we need to pull the officer in and talk to him, or do we do an internal investigation. If somebody does something they could have handled better, we might talk to them and say, “Hey, did you try this?”
The goal is to use no force. If that doesn’t work, then it’s the minimal amount of force necessary to get the job done.
You might go to 20 domestics and never have to wrestle anybody. You just never know. That’s the fine line.
The premises we try to affect is to go into a situation as openly as you can, the least threatening as you can and handle it knowing that at any moment it can go bad.
We have scenario-based training two to three times a year. It’s something we do in Lakewood because we want people to be well-trained. People who are well-trained tend to use less force.
If you’re not confident in what you can do in your abilities, you might jump to force too soon because you’re not sure you can handle it.