Seeking to repair relations with the public it serves, the Oakland, Calif. Police Department (OPD) is allowing invited members of the public to attend its “use of force” training in which video simulators play a major role.
The “police office safety training” (POST) video simulations are created by the Training Institute and are used to train officers on which level of force to use in a range of situations, OPD Officer Holly Joshi, a public information officer, told Government Video. On Dec. 11, 2010, the OPD opened its use of force training to community leaders is an attempt to repair “the public trust and image” of the OPD created by officer-involved shootings, Joshi said. “We (OPD) need to work on our relationships with the community,” she added.
S ince January 2009, Oakland area police have been involved in fatal shooting incidents that have resulted in public cries of police brutality, and even indifference to the lives of Black men. On Jan. 1, 2009, transit officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant, 22, an unarmed train rider who was face down on the train platform at the time of the shooting. The incident was recorded on several cell phones and distributed over the Internet. In July 2010, Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter—for which he could have received 14 years in prison—but on Nov. 6, he was sentenced to two years in jail. He would be eligible for parole within seven months.
On Nov. 9, 2010—three days after the Mehserle sentencing—two OPD officers were involved in the shooting death of another Black man, Derrick Jones, 37, who ran from police who were responding to a domestic violence call. Police say Jones was shot as reached for his waistband. Investigation revealed he did not have a weapon, and there has been speculation he may have been attempting to pull up his trousers.
REPAIRING PUBLICS’ TRUST
Joshi points out the Grant shooting involved the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police, adding she could only speak for the OPD in regards to efforts to repair relations with the public. “We do need to repair the public trust and image” of the OPD, “especially in this environment of low staffing levels and tight budgets,” she said.
“In order to keep the community safe, we’re definitely going to need the publics’ trust. We can’t do it by ourselves. We can’t be the eyes and ears, we can’t be witnesses, we are responding to the calls for service and if we arrive at a crime scene and the public does not trust us, then it is going to be very difficult for us to solve crimes and keep everyone safe. So we are taking as many steps as possible to rebuild community trust,” she said.
Two use-of-force training sessions were held Dec. 11, and OPD is going to try and make publicly attended sessions a regular part of the curriculum, Joshi said. However, the department is looking at ways to make that feasible. “We do have a department to train, but we’d also like to be as transparent as possible with the public. So we think we might be able to do this every six months,” she said.