Sheriffs plan training on how to stop excessive force

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Capital News Service

LANSING – All Michigan sheriff departments are offering training to teach officers to intervene with one another to prevent the use of excessive force.

The training program, Take Action: Make the R.I.G.H.T. Choice and Intervene, will teach officers to properly step in when a fellow officer may violate a law or cause misconduct. 

The program is through the U.S. Department of Justice working with the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Intervention can happen when an officer is not conforming to the law, commits a policy violation or lets emotions dictate decision making, said Daniel Pfannes, deputy director at the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association.

For instance, an intervention may be needed if an officer uses excessive force on a civilian or loses control, Pfannes said. 

“We recognize human beings are capable of making mistakes,” Pfannes said. “Our hope is that intervention will serve as a means of keeping them from occurring. Service, safety, and adherence to the law are keystones to our profession.” 

The Michigan Sheriffs’ Association is implementing the training for all sheriff departments.

The Department of Justice will pay to send trainers to five districts in the state. The sheriff’s offices will cover the cost of sending officers to the training.

Officers from around the district will meet at one of the five centrally located sheriff’s departments to participate in the two-day training program. 

“Day one is training for the practitioners, the officers that are out in the field dealing with the public,” Pfannes said. “Day two is for the trainers, these individuals will be able to serve as an organic force multiplier.”

Officers take the information back to their own agency to educate fellow sheriff deputies.

“This enables the Department of Justice funded training to serve as the seed that will grow into area wide training,” Pfannes said. 

The sheriffs’ association wants to make sure officers are up to date with such training. 

Michigan sheriff and police departments have had duty-to-intervene laws for the past few years. Michigan State Police describe duty-to-intervene policies as all law enforcement preventing unnecessary force or violence by fellow law enforcement officers.

The training expands on the duty-to-intervene policy and makes sure officers know what to do in such a situation, Pfannes said. 

Alpena County Sheriff Erik Smith said his department has had leadership training in the past where officers discussed intervening and how to intervene with someone who may be a deputy’s superior. 

“We want officers to do the right thing, we need to train our officers and give them the confidence to intervene and we need to build confidence in our communities,” Smith said. 

Take Action: Make the R.I.G.H.T. Choice and Intervene training will teach intervening towards an officer of any rank. 

It is not about making arrests, but about making a better community for the people and building public trust, Smith said.

Training to intervene helps officers build that level of trust. 

Pfannes and the Michigan Association of Sheriffs hope to begin the first district in training this year. 

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