POST Academy prepares recruits for a changing landscape of police, community relations

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With policing in the national spotlight this past summer, many police academies are changing training strategies, including Delta College’s Police Officers Standards and Training (POST) Academy.

“We have spent a lot of time reviewing, debriefing and discussing current events in policing,” POST Academy Director Tammie Murrell said.

Current events include police-involved incidents relating to the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, which sparked nationwide conversations about police brutality, specifically against minorities.

“We are being very intentional about talking about sensitive, often race-related topics, which can be uncomfortable for some recruits,” Murrell said.

However, Murrell believes it is necessary to have these discussions in order for recruits to recognize that historic failures of the police have created “cultures of suspicion and distrust” amongst minorities.

“Moving forward, we must take responsibility and ownership of the failures of the policing profession and work diligently and consistently to fix what is broken and repair relationships with our communities, especially communities of color,” Murrell said.

One way the POST Academy is trying to accomplish this is by implementing the tenants of procedural justice into its program.

According to Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, “procedural justice emphasizes the need for police to demonstrate their legitimacy to the public in four areas — voice, transparency, fairness, and impartiality.”

The POST Academy has implemented the tenants of procedural justice into its program for the past five years, Murrell said.

Murrell said the POST Academy also stresses the importance of a “community bank account,” which serves as an analogy to a bank savings account.

“The police have opened this community bank account by following the tenants of procedural justice,” she said. “Police officers work hard day in and day out to make small deposits of trust and legitimacy into this account.”

Though when incidents like the killings of Taylor and Floyd occur, Murrell said there is a massive withdrawal of trust and the effect is the police have less of the community’s respect. 

“Honest, hard-working officers nationally must begin the difficult work of repairing relationships and make deposits into the account to replenish it,” she said.

In addition to the implementation of procedural justice, POST is training recruits on the “duty to intervene.”

“This is the notion that if any officer witnesses any act of excessive force or criminal and unethical behavior by any officer, regardless of seniority or rank, it is the duty of the witnessing officer to not only intervene, but to report the behavior,” Murrell said.

The training to become a police officer is long and extensive.

Recruits are hard at work on an assignment at the beginning of the Fall 2019 session. Photo courtesy of Tammie Murrell.

“New recruits must spend hundreds of hours learning law and its application, policing theory and philosophy, new skills such as shooting and arrest and control tactics, and they must demonstrate they can take all the training and apply it to complex societal problems in the form of handling calls for service,” Murrell said.

Kerri Bruno, a recruit, began POST in May 2020.

Bruno said she’s wanted to work in law enforcement since an early age.

Both of her parents had worked for the California Department of Corrections, which influenced her career path.

“As I got older, I had a lot of respect for what they did,” Bruno said. “I decided I wanted to follow in their footsteps, but I didn’t want to be stuck in a prison.”

She said she thought becoming a police officer would be ideal for her so she could work in law enforcement and be on the outside.

Bruno earned her associate degree in criminal justice administration and then served in the United States Navy as a military police officer for four years.

Having been raised in a small town in Amador County, Bruno said she wasn’t exposed to much during her adolescence. 

“Joining the Navy gave me a lot of experience dealing with people from different walks of life,” she said. “It allowed me to see how most people come from different backgrounds and hear different opinions, and learn how to work around that.”

After returning from Japan, where she was stationed for most of her time in the Navy, she became sponsored by the Amador County Police Department and started attending POST.

This was around the time of Taylor and Floyd’s killings, and when the Black Lives Matter movement picked up momentum.

Though protests against police brutality soon descended into looting and violence, with a rise in crimes against police officers.

Earlier this month, a St. Louis police officer was shot in the shoulder while attempting to make a traffic stop. He was the ninth St. Louis police officer to be shot in the line of duty since June, according to KMOV News.

Due to the rise in crimes against police officers across the country, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis introduced the Protect and Serve Act on Sept. 17.

If passed, the bill would create federal penalties for people who intentionally target police officers with violence.

While some view policing as an increasingly dangerous profession, Bruno disagrees.

“It’s always been a dangerous profession,” she said. “There’s always been that risk of something happening that you weren’t planning on. Things could go sideways really quickly, but I don’t necessarily think it’s something that’s new.”

In order for the anti-police climate to change, Bruno believes there needs to be more education on both sides: the officers and the communities they serve.

“Certain things are skewed and it’s hard for people on the outside to see things in the way the officer sees them at that moment,” she said. “Officers are judged by people that see a little snippet of the incident and they get to watch it over and over again, and say they would have done it differently, but they don’t know everything that happened.”

Bruno said for this reason, police agencies should be open with their communities and release information pertaining to the incident so nothing is skewed.

“That’ll allow both sides to be shown before the judgment happens,” she said.