By Eleanor Johnson
In the wake of recent deadly officer-involved shootings, some Salt Lake City residents are calling for changes, including better de-escalation training for local police officers.
Last year, the Salt Lake City Police Department voluntarily implemented new training programs for its officers and supervisors, and plans to have the entire department through the programs in two years. The programs, Fair and Impartial Policing and Arbinger, are funded by a three year budget increase approved by Salt Lake City Council. Sgt. Michael Burbank says these programs “are looked at as the cutting edge, de-escalation, understanding your biases-type training programs.”
Fair and Impartial policing is a training method used to help law enforcement officers recognize their conscious and unconscious biases in order to reduce instances of biased policing. The idea behind Fair and Impartial Policing is that with information and motivation, people can implement controlled (unbiased) behavioral responses that override automatic (biased) associations. In addition, supervisors are trained to identify subordinates who may be acting in a biased manner and to respond appropriately to officers who exhibit biased policing behaviors.
The Arbinger program focuses on mindset – the lens through which you see your work, your relationships, and your entire world. The objective of the Arbinger method used by police departments is to give officers the tools to develop and implement an outward mindset in their work. SLCP Training Lieutenant Eddie Cameron said for most officers the information and training provided by Arbinger was a good reminder, but wasn’t really groundbreaking, but it did give a few officers a new perspective.
In addition to Fair and Impartial Policing, the police department introduced Blue Courage, a program for “seasoned” officers, which is funded through a grant from the Department of Justice. Training Officer Jason Miller said, “A lot of officers, after seeing what we see, tend to forget the reasons we got into the job. [Blue Courage] reminds us this is a noble profession, and in order for it to be a noble profession you have to have noble character.” Blue Courage reinvigorates this idea of nobility through emphasis on self-help resources and officer wellness, and stresses the idea of police officers as “protectors” of the community, rather than “warriors.”
Sgt. Michael Burbank said, “We’ve always had these principles within the department, but these programs are actually giving us a framework and a way to talk about them. Looking to change the culture of an institution is a long process; it doesn’t happen overnight.”