2 Minnesota police departments quit much-criticized training

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Two Minnesota law enforcement agencies have pulled out of a training class that has been criticized after it was revealed that the suburban police officer who shot and killed black motorist Philando Castile in 2016 had attended the training as part of his continuing education.

The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office and the Minneapolis Police Department have said they won’t send officers to BulletProof training, formerly called BulletProof Warrior, which is planned at the Mall of America this week. Ramsey County, which now polices the suburb where Castile was killed, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Monday that it pulled 10 deputies from the training.

The Minneapolis Police Department — which originally said it was sending two training supervisors and five core trainers to assess the training and see if it fit with department values — changed course Tuesday and also said it was pulling out.

“While we hold the safety of our community members and our officers in the highest regard, our policing model is built on a community of trust,” Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said in a statement. “We do not want to attend any training that could, in any way, shake the foundation of trust.”

The company behind the program says it teaches communication techniques, but critics say the training is fear-based. A protest of the training is planned for Wednesday.

The training was questioned by community members after Castile’s killing. Former St. Anthony Officer Jeronimo Yanez attended the training in 2014, two years before he shot Castile during a traffic stop after Castile told the officer he was armed. Castile’s girlfriend was in the car and streamed the shooting’s gruesome aftermath on Facebook. Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter and other charges last year and left the police department.

Promotional materials for the seminar that Yanez attended said it taught students how to “utilize their ‘Warrior Spirit’ in a practical way so they can WIN hostile confrontations on the street.” Information now on the company’s website says the two-day training is designed to prepare students “psychologically, emotionally, and tactically” and that officers will “learn how their attitudes and personal perspectives could mean the difference between life and death in both violent confrontations and living as a law enforcement officer on and off the job.”

The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office now provides policing in Falcon Heights, the suburb where Castile was killed. Chief Deputy Steve Frazer said Monday that he pulled deputies from the BulletProof training after receiving an inquiry from KSTP-TV.

“What it came down for me was a very easy decision because we’ve worked very hard in the last year and a half with the people in Falcon Heights and the other cities we police to talk about having relationships and doing things a different way and this training is hurtful to some in those communities,” Frazer said.

St. Paul police stopped hosting BulletProof training when Todd Axtell became police chief in June 2016 because “it did not fit with our department values,” police spokesman Steve Linders said. The Anoka County sheriff’s office is sending five deputies to the training. The Mall of America was also sending some security staff members.

Jim Glennon, owner of Calibre Press, which puts on the training, said the course deals with communication during times of extreme stress. It involves showing videos, including video of officers making mistakes with discussion about how those can be avoided. Dash camera footage from Yanez’s squad car is included.

“We come to no definitive conclusion,” Glennon said of Yanez’s case. He added that they tell attendees Yanez was found not guilty, “but we also break it down and often I’ll get four or five different opinions about how the traffic stop could have been handled, should have been handled.”

Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said she and other groups are urging the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training to remove the program from its list of approved continuing-education credits for officers.

The training fits the Peace Officer Standards and Training board’s criteria. Board executive director Nathan Gove said individual agencies can decide what’s best for their communities and departments.

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Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com

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