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Minneapolis mayor says no more 'warrior' training for cops

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Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey discusses police training changes.
In his second State of the City address on Thursday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey outlined changes in police training.
Glen Stubbe | Star Tribune

Effective immediately, Minneapolis police officers are prohibited from taking a certain type of training course. Mayor Jacob Frey made the announcement Thursday during his annual State of the City speech, saying that so-called "fear-based or warrior training" courses make officers overly aggressive. 

The type of training that is now banned for Minneapolis police officers goes by different names. An examination of records following the police shooting death of Philando Castile in 2016 showed then-St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez took a seminar called "Bulletproof Warrior."

According to a brochure, the course is designed to help officers "utilize their 'Warrior Spirit' in a practical way so they can WIN hostile confrontations on the street."

Frey said training based on instilling fear in officers has no place in Minneapolis because it "does not align with the culture and mission of our chief, and serves no purpose in our police department."

"And so, I felt strongly that it needed to be prohibited, not just on duty — which is already the case — but also off duty," he said.

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the department will examine its current in-house training programs and make sure they are in compliance. He said while it can be a dangerous job, the overwhelming majority of police work does not involve using force, moreover it's counterproductive if officers start seeing every community member as a potential threat.

"One, it compounds the stress for the officer themselves," the chief said. "And two, it raises the significant potential that the encounter with the community member could end very badly."

Arradondo added that police use-of-force incidents are on a downward trend.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey delivers second State of the City address.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey delivers his second State of the City address on Thursday.
Glen Stubbe | Star Tribune

The announcement comes as a former Minneapolis police officer is on trial facing murder and manslaughter charges. Mohamed Noor killed Justine Ruszczyk in an alley outside her home in July 2017. According to Noor's attorney Peter Wold, Noor and his partner found themselves in a "potential ambush scenario". Noor shot Ruszczyk, also known as Justine Damond, through his squad's window as she appeared at the driver's side of the police car.

Dave Bicking, a member of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said the group has sent data practices requests to the Minneapolis department to find out if officers receive "counter-ambush" training. Bicking said this type of instruction has become more common following the killing of police officers in other cities while they sat in their cars.

Bicking welcomes the new policy as "a huge victory for people in this city. There are people who will not be killed because of this change."

Police spokesperson John Elder responded by saying officers receive what he calls "situational awareness" training. Officers are taught to be mindful of potential threats, and not scared that everyone who approaches them will harm them, Elder said.

It's not clear if other departments around the state have instituted similar policies. "I can tell you anecdotally that there are dozens of police chiefs across the state that share the same philosophy as the Mayor of Minneapolis," said Andy Skoogman, executive director of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, in a written statement.   

"I can also tell you with great confidence that there are dozens of Minnesota police chiefs who won't send their officers to specific training courses that emphasize the warrior mentality."

Nate Gove, the director of the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training, released a statement saying that it's up to individual agencies to determine what kind of education is best for their officers.