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How Kansas City Regional Police Academy is teaching recruits to spot, stop excessive force

KC Police Academy recruits are taught to have a 'Duty to Intervene'
Kansas City Regional Police Academy
Posted at 5:19 PM, May 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-01 19:34:32-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In late April, a former Colorado police officer was found guilty of failing to intervene when a fellow officer pistol-whipped and strangled an unarmed man.

The conviction became the first in the state under a new accountability law that was adopted in 2020 after the death of George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis Police Officer while three other officers looked on.

It's a topic that has resurfaced following the death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police officers earlier this year.

Here in Kansas City, these cases are serving as reminders for officers and new recruits of the need to uphold their 'Duty to Intervene'. Not only is that police policy for the Kansas City Police Department, it's also something that's taught to new recruits at the Kansas City Regional Police Academy.

Instructors at the Academy invited our I-Team to observe a training exercise focused on the topic of a 'Duty to Intervene'. The topic focus on how officers can spot and stop instances where excessive force is being used in the field.

In the exercise, viewers will see two groups of students go through the exercise, and learn what instructors say they got right and what they got wrong.

Going into the exercise, recruits were unaware of the topic. Instead, their teachers hoped they would spot an unapproved technique and respond appropriately.

It started with a call to assist an officer. To elevate their heart rates and better simulate the adrenaline rush officers likely would face in the field, recruits first performed a series of exercises known as "burpies," then ran up a flight of stairs.

When they got upstairs, recruits were greeted by law enforcement officers acting out a scenario where an officer had apprehended a suspect, but was placing his knee on the man's neck, a technique that is neither taught nor tolerated at the Academy and KCPD.

The students were expected to spot this, remove the officer, report their actions to a superior, assess the suspect for any injuries, all while handling a civilian with a cell phone and keeping that person a safe distance from the scene.

So how important is this particular simulation?

"Extremely important," instructing Officer Deb Browning explains. "Here, we need to see how their tempers are going to go, how they can bring themselves down, how they are going to react on their own without us giving them the exact scenario. I want them to see it here. Hopefully they never have to see it in their entire career, and this is the only place they see it."

The KC Regional Police Academy has been doing this type of training exercise with new recruits for over a decade.

“We are sworn to uphold the Constitution, and we are sworn to uphold the law and that doesn’t matter if it’s another police officer, that maybe you see, or perceive as violating that. And it is our duty to intervene into that situation, "said Major Paul Luster, "I don’t think the general public recognizes how much emphasis specifically in Kansas City that their Police department puts into how seriously we take it,.”

Luster also adds it's not just new recruits who are practicing their duty to intervene.

Following George Floyd's death, there's been an added emphasis on requiring even seasoned veterans to do something similar as part of their annual in-service training.