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Local Law Enforcement Officers Talk Use of Force Training

The St. Joseph Police Department said they train all year long on how and when to use force.

Posted: Apr. 2, 2018 4:55 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) When an officer responds to a situation, they never know how the suspect(s) will respond to them. That's why the St. Joseph Police Department said they train all year long on how and when to use force.

"Force is dependant on the officer's perception of the level of resistance that he's encountering," Sgt. Jason Person, SJPD, said. 

Person said that officer's perception directly corresponds to the type and amount of force the officer will use.

"If it's simply somebody pulling away then we use lower levels of force, if it's somebody squaring off at us or taking a fighting stance then obviously we are going to use a higher degree of force," Person said.

However, Person said St. Joseph Police officers are trained for a minimum of 40 hours a year on use of force tactics. Those include firearm training, use of a baton, OC spray, defensive tactics and more.

"We want them to continue training with all of their force options, all of their tools so they can stay fresh with their tools and they can respond quicker and have a better outcome on these situations," Person said.

No two officers are the same, meaning no two officers will react and respond to the same situation the same way. This can cause some difficulties in training, but the Law Enforcement Academy at Missouri Western State University said they teach all of their officers the basics.

"What we try to do is teach them the basics, particularly when it comes to communications. There's certain things that can deescalate a situation or escalate it depending on how you approach it," Kip Wilson, MWSU Law Enforcement Academy, said.

This is also something the SJPD takes into consideration during their training.

"Some of our officers will perceive a threat differently than others. It doesn't mean that their response is any less justified, but it has to be a reasonable response," Person said.

Social media has created some tensions for officers with people posting videos of them getting pulled over. Person said it's important for people to understand that not all sides of the story and not all the facts get reported on a Facebook post.

"Until you've experienced some of the things that officers will experience during their tour of duty you just have know idea how you personally would respond to any given situation," Person said.

Whenever an officer uses a higher level of force, it gets reported as part of SJPD's Incident Based Reporting System. Person said the report is instantly looked at by the officer's supervisor, and then reviewed by several other high-ranked officers in the following days.

"I review them all, and that is basically for determining training needs for individual officers and annual training needs for the department," Person said.

Wilson said they teach their cadets the basics, with an emphasis in communication between officers. He said the cadets are put through hours of training to be prepared for use of force situations and how to respond.

"It's a safety issue, so the better we handle a situation the safer it is for everybody," Wilson said.

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