When Jeff O’Dell took over as chief of the Kissimmee, Fl., Police Department a year ago, he knew the agency had problems. Tensions were high in the aftermath of a series of law enforcement shootings across the U.S. against unarmed black men. Then, three of the department’s officers were arrested in a scandal stemming from a drug arrest in which they were accused of raiding a motel room unlawfully and then lying about it in court. One of the first things O’Dell decided to do was to re-examine how officers respond to challenging situations, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
He started a peer-intervention training program that includes scenario training and establishing different code words for officers to use to let a coworker know things are starting to get out of hand, in hopes of preventing incidents and boosting trust in the community. O’Dell is planning revisions to use of force guidelines to hold other officers liable when they witness an officer acting unprofessionally and don’t step in. “We wanted to reaffirm our legitimacy in our community and help bolster it,” he said. “… We needed to start taking a look at us and ask, ‘What are ways we can improve and change the traditional law enforcement culture so we could improve our credibility?’ ” He has met with each of the 104 sworn officers and talked about ethical changes, then had officers complete the new course. The code word is intended to prevent an officer from getting embarrassed when their partner notifies them.