Gov. Jay Nixon wants law enforcement officers across Missouri to be better trained on how to respond to dangerous situations, avoid racial profiling and take care of themselves.
Nixon announced his peace officer training goals last Thursday — three days before the one-year anniversary of the police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson. While a grand jury and U.S. justice officials maintained Officer Darren Wilson did nothing wrong, civil rights activists and others questioned the officer’s use of deadly force.
“Events here in Missouri and across the country have prompted a national dialogue about the need to build greater trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they protect and serve,” Nixon said.
Many law enforcement agencies nationwide already teach their officers how to delay or even prevent shootings by backing away or finding cover until other officers arrive.
Officers also must be trained to use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to avoid racial or cultural profiling as well as situations where they may have to shoot someone who is threatening them, Nixon said.
“On any given day, they face challenges that demand toughness, discipline and courage, but also the compassion of a counselor, the legal acumen of a lawyer and the discernment of a negotiator,” he said.
Nixon has directed Lane Roberts, the state’s public safety director, and the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission to convene a series of meetings across the state to receive input from citizens, law enforcement, educators and advocacy groups on ways to update and improve officer training. Those recommendations are due to Nixon by Dec. 1.
Missouri has the same continuing education standards that were in place in 1996 in terms of mandated hours and the types of training that an officer must receive on an ongoing basis.
“Clearly, there has been a great deal of attention on Missouri over the last year, and I feel we have an obligation to stand up and lead,” Nixon said. “We have a responsibility to set an example and we are prepared to do just that.”
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