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State and city police representatives educate the community on updated police training procedures.

COURTESY PHOTO - Oregon's Department of Public Safety Standards & Training Program Development Coordinator Staci Yutzie.Officials from the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards & Training gave a presentation called "From Warrior to Guardian: Police Officer Training in Oregon" via Zoom Wednesday, July 14.

The event was hosted by the Forest Grove chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) and was moderated by SURJ member and former News-Times editor Jill Rehkopf Smith. Among the topics covered in the hour-long presentation: the evolution of police training in the wake of the May 2020 murder of George Floyd at the hands of a now-former Minneapolis police officer, along with a push for a more empathetic approach to policing over the confrontational "warrior" approach.

Former Forest Grove police captain and DPSST operations manager Mike Herb and DPSST program coordinator Staci Yutzie carefully explained the manner by which Oregon police officers have been and are trained. They were joined by Forest Grove Police Chief Henry Reimann to field questions from the community about how that training will apply to concerns they have about the current state of the Forest Grove Police Department in particular, along with where it's headed in the future.

Forest Grove police have been involved in a series of incidents that have drawn public scrutiny — including the death of a man after police Tasered him during an encounter last October, an off-duty officer allegedly challenging residents flying a "Black Lives Matter" flag to come out of their house in the middle of the night and fight him, and a detective purportedly using facial recognition software to profile a nonviolent protester last summer.

Some questioners asked specifically about how Forest Grove police are training officers to avoid bias and de-escalate situations.

Reimann spoke to the increased training his officers are and will be receiving in the future, along with the necessity of wellness programs to assure the overall mental health of their officers. Herb agreed.

"Everybody knows that there are some days when you get up and you're just not feeling it," Herb said. "That's a reality, so it's important not to let your bad day lead to a lack of empathy in the field. You have to learn to take care of yourself."

Reimann also expressed a desire for more community involvement, pointing to Forest Grove's newly formed community policing advisory commission as a means of staying in touch with what's going on with the police department and creating a conduit between officers and marginalized community members.

"Members have been tasked to do listening sessions with officers," Reimann said, "so as to bring marginalized community members to the table to talk with officers one-on-one about their experiences."

COURTESY PHOTO - Oregon's Department of Public Safety Standards & Training Operations Manager Mike Herb.Community questions also brought up concerns over newly trained recruits being negatively affected by an "old guard" unwilling to accept a more modern means of policing. But Herb said despite a little pushback regarding the new approach, he said it's an investment in the future. While it may take time, ultimately, given the proper leadership, you'll see the change necessary, Herb opined.

"In time, that 'old guard' will move on," Herb said. "And what you will see is a very large group of recruits in training and leadership positions who are setting that tone and changing that culture in their departments based on what they're learning in the academy."

Yutzie said the Oregon Public Safety Academy has been re-evaluating its approach to training.

"We wanted to develop something that was grounded in research," Yutzie said. "So, in 2016, we partnered with some researchers at Washington State University and asked them to help us in this endeavor."

Authorities developed a three-phased approach constructed around the study of the complexities involved with police and community interaction, and how to integrate those findings with the basic skills already being taught.

While it was clear Herb and Yutzie are proud of what's been both constructed and implemented in Oregon's police training, they also acknowledged that it's an ongoing process.

"We're proud of what we've done and we've done a lot," Yutzie said, "but we know that there's more that we can do."

Specifically, she cited as examples:

• Improving student performance on low scoring areas

• Providing more practice and coaching opportunities to students

• Adding training evaluation based on performance data from the tfield

• Instituting a standing curricula review

• Improving instructor competencies

• Increasing instructor diversity

• Increasing role player diversity

• Improving the ability to track and report individual student competencies

• Implementing a formalized overall student evaluation

• Modifying and/or increasing academy completion requirements

If you'd like to listen to the "From Warrior to Guardian: Police Officer Training in Oregon" presentation in full, you can access both the video and audio recordings via dropbox.com/sh/q00ftzje5fnjmyi/AAANPfw63k8U1w8YJL67pPqDa?dl=0.


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