HERSHEY, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — There has been a national conversation taking place in recent months about reforming law enforcement procedures and policies. It centers around the use of force by police officers.
Wednesday, Eyewitness News was given rare access inside the Pennsylvania State Police Academy. State police commanders say the bottom line is they want the public to know what kind of training cadets undergo when it comes to the use of force.
“There’s a lot more to it than simply looking at a video and saying yeah, the officer was right or the officer was wrong. There’s a lot more to police use of force,” Sgt. Timothy Fetzer, use of force training supervisor, said.
The mission on this day, according to Pennsylvania State Police officials, is to show the public the training given to cadets.
“As we get out in our communities and talk with folks, even as we talk with some attorneys that we deal with, we see that there’s really some general misunderstandings about police use of force. This gives really an idea what we teach our cadets in overview,” Sgt. Fetzer said.
That training includes videos from use of force incidents across the nation.
“Many police use of force incidents evolve very rapidly. Some [in] milliseconds. Police officers have… less than a second a lot of times. Police officers have to make that decision if you will — if you could even call it a decision. Sometimes it’s simply a reaction,” Sgt. Fetzer said.
The training includes improving communication between the troopers and the citizens they encounter on emergency calls.
“De-escalation is a word that is used like it’s another tactic that can be neatly choreographed and it’s not. It’s establishing a human relationship and it’s different every time,” Cpl. Barton Lamansky, a use of force specialist, said.
Ron Felton is president of the Wilkes-Barre chapter of the NAACP. He’s hopeful that training like this will make a difference in real life encounters.
“I think it’s important that they are having this kind of training, so forth, because obviously it has caught a lot of attention,” Felton said.
State police officials say this training has been expanded in light of the recent national conversation about police and community relations reporting at the state police academy in Hershey.
In another story about the training, Eyewitness News has details about a special state police unit that has expanded this year. It’s to help build better relations between law enforcement and members of under-served and minority communities.