A Seattle police officer’s fatal shooting of a totem carver has drawn attention to the police department’s training quality, says the Seattle Times. The officer had been on the streets for two years. Dallas Murry, a Seattle police trainer, says an officer with that level of street time “can pretty quickly find himself in a situation where he just doesn’t have the experience to draw on.” Murry adds: “Combine that with the fact that six officers were murdered last year, and they might find it hard to tell when to back down.”
Developing better ways to deal with volatile situations is exactly what is being demanded of the Seattle Police Department by community advocates, police watchdogs, and key members of the City Council. The department has responded to the criticism by promising to put more Tasers in the hands of officers; train more officers in crisis intervention; and put the entire force through a course of “verbal judo,” which gives officers the skills to help defuse tense situations by appealing to the rational judgment of people or their personal needs. National studies on police use of force have concluded that the quality of a department’s training, more than anything, drives an officer’s actions in stressful “shoot/don’t shoot” situations.