A day after a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer for the death of an unarmed man, Eric Garner, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to retrain the police force.
The Garner case raised fundamental questions about respecting rights, use of force, and police-community relations, the mayor said at the New York City Police Academy. So there will be fundamental changes made to police training.
“A whole new generation of officers will be trained with a new approach,” said de Blasio. During an upcoming three-day course, 22,000 police officers will be completely retrained.
The police will be changing how they talk with the residents to the city, changing how they listen, slowing down situations rather than escalating them, de Blasio said. “Using less force whenever possible.”
“Everybody needs to know they’ll be treated the same regardless of who they are. That’s what we aspire to,” de Blasio said.
Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker, formerly head of training, said that for the last 50 years, training of the nation’s largest police force took place primarily in one location on 20th Street in Manhattan.
The New York City Police Academy in Queens will provide an opportunity to train officers in a completely different way, Tucker said.
Officers will now be trained by platoon, rather than rank. “The logic is that they work together, we train them together, they’ll perform better as a team together,” Tucker said.
The overlying theme is getting officers to respect people, rather than judging people, so they can build trust, he said. “How do we build trust? We build trust through respect.”
“We’ll focus in any way on how we can get our officers to engage with the community, have a felt presence that makes a difference and builds trust,” Tucker said.
The new training will emphasize communication over force. The department will focus on giving police officer more resources and communication skills while simultaneously reinforcing the idea to avoid using force whenever possible.
“We also want to strengthen problem solving skills,” Tucker said. The officers will also be trained to be more resilient and positive, he said.
There will also be increased training in defensive tactics, which is something available only in recruit school right now.
“We recognize that we should do better, and we will do better,” Tucker said.