One state is revolutionizing the way cops are trained.

by Howard Schultz and Rajiv Chandrasekaran

During Susan Rahr’s seven-year stint as sheriff of King County, Washington, she reviewed scores of internal affairs investigations. The ones involving allegations of an excessive use of force attracted her closest scrutiny, and led her to pose her own questions to the deputies involved.

“Why did you use force so quickly?”

“Why didn’t you try another way of defusing the situation?”

The deputies’ answers often reflected an approach that has long been in vogue with cops called “Ask. Tell. Make.”

“You would ask someone to do something. If they didn’t do it, you would tell them. If they didn’t do it, then you would physically make them do it,” Rahr says. “And that doesn’t reflect real life on the street. Most good police officers don’t jump that quickly from the first step to using force.”

Then she would ask, “Where did you learn that?”

The responses were usually the same: at the academy – the state’s Criminal Justice Training Center, which schools every aspiring city police officer and county deputy in Washington.

In 2012, she decided to stop asking follow-up questions and address the problem.


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