The news out of Minneapolis regarding George Floyd and the following violence is heart wrenching and frightening.
The Mayor and City Council recently received an email asking “What is RPD actively doing to prevent unnecessary violence by police towards our friends and neighbors?”
This is always a good question to ask, and given recent news, an important question to ask. The answer is simple in some ways, and tougher to quantify in other ways.
The Simple Answer
The police are continually updating policies and regulations for the department as new studies and best practices are released.
These policies are presented at entire department meetings insuring the same message reaches everyone in the department.
In addition officers receive ongoing training in any number of subjects, including use of force, de-escalation and mental health crisis tactics. In Robbinsdale each officer receives 40 hours of crisis intervention training (CIT), well above what the state standard requires.
De-escalation training has been ongoing for many years, with regular updates to procedures as communities and scenarios change and evolve.
For more information see [this statement from Chief Franzen] (https://www.robbinsdalemn.com/services/police-department/de-escalation-training). It was published in 2017, and just updated.
Over the last few years, there has been a greater emphasis on mental health issues, and providing officers a better understanding and new resources for interacting and concluding these incidents respectfully and peacefully.
Training for police in Robbinsdale, and most departments, is continual and ongoing.
Currently, the Robbinsdale, New Hope and Crystal police departments are jointly exploring hiring a mental health social worker to provide follow up and additional support for residents that may be in need of connecting with resources to help them. (this paragraph was edited. It previously stated the social worker had been hired. The mistake was mine!)
The “Complicated” Answer
Along with the specific training officers receive the department chooses a value to focus on for the year. These values help shape the tone for the department and each interaction officers have with the public.
The last few years the focus has been on “Engagement”, “Responsiveness” and “Zeal”. The fourth year, they combined each value into a new mission statement:
As the Chief explained, “At each meeting we discussed in length what it means to be engaged with the community, what is means to be responsive, and what it means to serve with zeal.” Using responsiveness as an example, “It doesn’t just mean showing up quickly to a call, but being responsive to meeting people’s needs. Being sympathetic, understanding, etc.”
I have had officers tell me that it didn’t take long for these values to become a part of the department, finding they will catch themselves during a conversation and changing their interaction, and holding each other to account.
It is hard to say that this makes a definitive difference - values are sometimes tough to quantify - and since we are all humans may be forgotten occasionally.
But they set clear expectations and provide a guide for the department to operate from and aspire to, and that is a very good thing.
But, what if…
None of that is to say something terrible couldn’t happen here. Unfortunately it could, just as it could happen anywhere.
Through training and experience, the department works hard to put themselves in a position to minimize risk to themselves and the public.
I know that our department is incredibly professional and has in place many rules, regulations and guidelines to both train and hold officers accountable.
The addition of body cameras to the force (which was wholly endorsed by the entire department, from the Chief to the newest officers) provides even more accountability and opportunities for teaching and training.
The Bottom Line
No one can predict the future, foresee every potential pitfall, respond perfectly every single time.
The department has training and policies in place to help them respond appropriately.
The Mayor, Council and City Manager all take our job very seriously, no matter the situation or issue, and you can be sure that we will continue to call for the highest level of professionalism and respectfulness from the department.
With all of these pieces Robbinsdale has worked hard, and continues to work hard, to insure needless tragedy won’t happen here.