Officers involved in even routine traffic stops should “always assume that the violator and all the occupants in the vehicle are armed.”

“Most suspects are mentally prepared to react violently.”

And “you could die today, tomorrow, or next Friday.”

Those are among the dire warnings contained in the state Law Enforcement Academy’s newly proposed training curriculum. The draft comes as the academy, which sets the tone for police recruit training statewide, has already instituted a program that puts less restraint on officers in deciding when to use deadly force, despite a series of officer-involved shootings in New Mexico. The academy’s board is expected to vote on the curriculum at its next meeting, which has not been scheduled.

Law enforcement experts contacted by The New Mexican had mixed reactions to the draft lesson plans. Some called the lessons standard fare for police training academies. But several raised concerns over the rhetoric used in the curriculum, saying it has the potential to make officers fearful of the public, resulting in more use of deadly force.

“I would be very careful to have anything in my curriculum called ‘Officer Survival,’ ” said Eugene O’Donnell, a former police officer with the New York City Police Department, referring to a section of the draft with that title.

O’Donnell, now a criminal justice professor at John Jay College in New York, said academies across the country should be emphasizing “the sanctity of human life, using firearms as a last resort and emphasis on taking cover” instead of getting into confrontation.

O’Donnel said “heated language” in the Officer Survival section can instill fear among officers, giving an impression that the officer’s life is always in great danger, and that’s not helpful. The section includes passages like “What is a warrior mindset?” and contains a supposed Q&A with an inmate who has killed an officer.

Question: “How did you feel the moment you shot the officer?”

Answer: “I didn’t have any feelings at all.”

Jack Jones, the academy’s director, declined to comment and referred questions to the Department of Public Safety’s spokesman, Tony Lynn, who did not return a call.

The New Mexican received a lightly redacted copy of the curriculum under the Inspection of Public Records Act.

Michael Levine, a former federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent and current police trainer, said some officers get scared too easily and resort to using force. Levine, who now serves as an expert witness in use-of-force court cases, said, “This lesson [on officer survival] to a fearful person is like shortening his fuse.”

Tim Dees, a former police trainer for the Oregon Department of Public Safety, reviewed the use-of-force, firearms and officer survival training plans. He said most of the statistics on deadly encounters in the lesson plans do not cite sources, which can be a problem if they would ever need to be presented in court.

“Listing ‘facts’ like these without providing a source for each one is a very risky proposition if you might some day have to defend your lesson plan in court,” Dees said in an email. “Overall, I can’t say I’m impressed with the set of documents, other than to note that most are poorly prepared.”

The use-of-force lesson plan refers to federal court cases such as Graham v. Conner and Tennessee v. Garner, but doesn’t explain how they should be applied. In the 1985 Tennessee v. Garner, the Supreme Court ruled that a police officer can use deadly force to stop a fleeing suspect if the officer has probable cause to believe the suspect might do serious physical injury or kill an officer or another person. And in the 1989 case, Graham v. Connor, the Supreme Court ruled that an officer can use a reasonable amount of force in arresting a suspect.

“I always try to include the context to explain how the case law should be applied to real-world situations,” Dees said. “It’s not necessarily wrong not to do this, but without the context, the cases are just names to most cops.”

O’Donnell agreed that if cases are going to be used in cadet training, they need to be taught in relation to real-life scenarios.

The lesson plan states, “When an officer is involved in a use of force incident, the time for training stops and the officer must act. It’s at that time when the officer will rely on his/her training to bring the violence to an end to survive the fight. When all is calm again, we can review the officer’s actions and learn from the incident.”

Thomas Grover, a former sergeant with the Albuquerque Police Department who independently reviewed the lesson plans, noted that the Officer Survival course has been expanded, but what’s lacking in the new curriculum is an emphasis on working with the community.

“When you have someone who is just coming in and is 21 years old … they’re very impressionable, and sure it creates that us-versus-them [mentality], we’re warriors [mentality],” he said.

“My recommendation would be you’ve got to balance that out,” said Grover, who recently graduated from The University of New Mexico’s law school.

He added that the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy curriculum doesn’t achieve that balance and doesn’t include the “overarching purpose … which is to serve citizens.”

John A. Eterno, a former police captain for the New York Police Department, approved of many of the the new training materials, especially the update on state law and how to protect basic rights of the public.

But he said there were some issues he believes the academy should address, such as emphasizing that officers should be using the minimum amount of force in dealing with suspects. Eterno said even though the lesson plans cite case law on the use of force, they seem to lack specific and detailed rules.

The New York Police Department’s use-of-force policy, for example, clearly states that officers are not allowed to discharge their firearms at or from a moving vehicle unless deadly physical force — besides the vehicle involved — is being used against the officer or another person. Such rules need to be emphasized in training, and it’s something that is lacking in New Mexico’s training material, he said.

Eterno, now a professor of criminal justice at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, N.Y., also said, “This warrior thing is a bit overplayed.”

However, he said, the public needs to put itself in the shoes of an officer who might be facing an armed suspect who has just committed a crime.

Between 2003 and 2012, more than 500 police officers across the country, including five in New Mexico, were killed in felonious assaults in the line of duty, according to the latest FBI statistics.

New Mexico made national headlines when a state police officer shot at a van full of children near Taos after the driver fled during a traffic stop in October. In November, a different state police officer shot and killed a Santa Fe woman after a chase, firing into her vehicle 16 times as she tried to flee. The second shooting was one of three fatal shootings involving state police in the course of a month.

The Albuquerque Police Department, meanwhile, is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice to determine if officers use unreasonable deadly force in encounters with suspects. Albuquerque officers fatally shot 22 people from 2010 through 2013, and wounded another 13.

The New Mexican revealed last month that, despite these incidents, the academy has altered its training to give officers more leeway to use force when pursuing a suspect than previous training under an older model.

When The New Mexican first filed a public records request for a copy of the academy’s training material in February, Jones said, “I’ll burn them before you get them.” But State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said March 5 that the Department of Public safety, which oversees the academy, had intended to release the training materials.

Jones, a former state police officer and retired Army colonel, has taken increasing control over training at the academy since joining it as deputy director in January 2013. He was named director last June, and in September, the academy’s eight-member board voted unanimously to give him control over the curriculum, which in the past had required a period of public input.

Jones wanted the code changed in time for the latest cadet class, which started Jan. 20. Among other changes, he shortened the training from 22 weeks to 16 and instituted a physical-fitness entrance exam that is the same for men and women and applicants of all ages.

Grover said his main concern with the curriculum is that training was reduced by six weeks. Considering that the Albuquerque Police Department is being investigated by the federal government, he said, the last thing the academy should do is cut back on training.

The academy is still using previous lesson plans, although the plans are continually updated, Kassetas said, because, “We want to teach the most current methods.”

Contact Uriel J. Garcia at 986-3062 or ugarcia@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter @ujohnnyg.

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(40) comments

Steven Salemi

You might not know it from watching TV news, but FBI statistics show that crime in the U.S.—including violent crime—has been trending steadily downward for years, falling 19% between 1987 and 2011. The job of being a police officer has become safer too, as the number of police killed by gunfire plunged to 33 last year, down 50% from 2012, to its lowest level since, wait for it,1887, a time when the population was 75% lower than it is today.

So why are we seeing an ever increasing militarization of policing across the country?

Given the good news on crime, what are we to make of a report by the Justice Polivcy Institute, a not-for-profit justice reform group, showing that state and local spending on police has soared from $40 billion in 1982 to more than $100 billion in 2012. Adding in federal spending on law enforcement, including the FBI, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Drug Enforcement Agency and much of the Homeland Security Department budget, as well as federal grants to state and local law enforcement more than doubles that total. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that the ranks of state and local law enforcement personnel alone swelled from 603,000 to 794,000 between 1992 and 2010. That’s about two-thirds as many men and women as the entire active-duty US military.

What these statistics make clear is that policing in America is ramping up even as the crime rate is falling.

Khal Spencer

"Jones, a former state police officer and retired Army colonel, has taken increasing control over training at the academy since joining it as deputy director in January 2013. He was named director last June, and in September, the academy’s eight-member board voted unanimously to give him control over the curriculum, which in the past had required a period of public input."

Seems someone besides Jones should review and approve the curriculum. Maybe not the general public, which may have no knowledge of training techniques and law enforcment, but SOMEONE with an independent and knowledgeable point of view. Perhaps a committee of county prosecuting attorneys and folks like O'Donnell, Dees, Grover, and Eterno? I find it a little unsettling that Mr. Jones has complete control, given especially his attitude that he can wipe his hind end with the Inspection of Public Records Act.

Joseph Hempfling

Why in Brooklyn our mothers always told us; IF YOU NEED A POLICEMAN,
CALL A FIREMAN !!

Mark Ortiz

[thumbup]

Khal Spencer

In a related story, yet another fatal police shooting in Albuquerque last night.

Stan Modjesky

Perhaps the police academy could cut straight to the practice of psychologically screening applicants and accepting only those who already show some pathological paranoia.

This will place New Mexico on the growing list of states I will never visit as a tourist.

Khal Spencer

I'm rarely the recipient of a traffic stop, but this sends chills down my spine. Is a law enforcement officer, trained in New Mexico to see the public as an ever present danger, going to wonder if I am reaching for my paperwork, or reaching for a Glock? Furthermore, is he or she going to shoot first and ask questions later as he is trained to think of me as "mentally prepared to react violently"? The present training, and the use of paramilitary tactics taught by retired Army officers, makes me wonder whether cops will start to treat the streets of New Mexico as though they are the streets of Afghanistan. This is not good for civil society.

vincent saiz

So called law enforcement has become the excuse for the state to put jack booted thugs in a car with a loaded gun, tazer, baton and a shotgun all in an effort to screw your civil rights and to humiliate the public in general. This douche bag instructor sounds like a good ol boy... "KKK" style, sick and depraved he needs to be removed from civil society to make it safe for the public in general. Jack me off Jones and everyone of his graduates need to be reviewed, SURELY ANYONE HE HAS TRAINED IS A TRAINED ATTACK DOG OFF ITS LEASH. Based on his own training manual.

FIRE HIM NOW AND COMPLETELY RE-ORG THE dps.

Tim Hamilton

Read "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces." Police officers are trained to have an "Us" and "Them" mentality. On June 27, 2005, the United States Supreme Court ruled that police officers "have no duty to protect" citizens from harm. We actually have no form of mandated protection at all. Police can arbitrarily pick their battles, which is why they pick some pretty soft battles- such as shooting at minivans loaded with kids. I would not call police, mainly because they have too often shown themselves as people who are not deserving of trust. People are being instructed by attorneys to NEVER talk to police under ANY circumstances. When pulled over, attorneys are beginning to tell the drivers not to speak to the police officer at all, for any reason, and many people - me included - have opted to take even the most minor tickets to court. NEVER take a plea deal on a ticket, and NEVER talk to the officer - PERIOD. Even when, like me, you have nothing to hide.

Michael Cannon

They've had the us-versus-them mentality for years already. They show it every time they call someone a 'civilian'.

oscar michael

What we have is a cycle of stupidity. By treating every stop as a potential death trap, police are escalating the situation before they ever leave the car. Civilians are more likely to make poor decisions and put the officers life in danger if they feel their life is under threat by a paranoid officer. Does this policy eventually lead to more high speed chases because the public is in fear? With more and more incidents are the police more likely to over react to any perceived threat? Police work is not only enforcement of laws, but also a relationship with the community as a whole. The public will be less likely to communicate or come into contact with any law enforcement official if they know that the police are afraid of them and might be threatened into using their weapons.

El Moore

Officer survival training does not instill a paranoia to shoot first ask questions later... Survival training gives the officer an ability to connect with real world officer survival mindset and incidents, with real world emotion,in order to troubleshoot any given scenario prior to the incident unfolding... It is unsafe and risky for the officer and the public for an officer not to be trained as the instruction here defines... A large number of officers and members of the public are killed with a Law Enforcement Officers duty weapon... The officer must maintain consciousness and control of their duty weapon at all times, in all situations... Irregardless of what type of academy curriculum makes some supposed "experts" feel good... Law Enforcement Officers are given the opportunity to learn how to troubleshoot any given scenario prior to needing to, while also being ready for any unplanned or unknown situation... The information provided is the truth of Law Enforcement... It is egregious to ask academy professionals to lie to trainees... the issue of shoot/ no shoot arises from a different aspect of law enforcement training.... Of course shoot/no shoot training is only as good as any given scenario... so unfortunate things happen... This world is tragic... people get hurt and die... However one thing is sure... Law Enforcement officers are not paid to get hurt and die... Law Enforcement Officers are paid to survive and live... so the public may also.[censored][innocent]

Michael Cannon

"A large number of officers and members of the public are killed with a Law Enforcement Officers duty weapon" I agree with part of that statement. Cops kill on average over 500 people a year. Cops however are killed by traffic accidents more than anything, or one, else. In fact, 2013 saw the lowest number of dead police since 1887.

Steve Salazar

If the SOP is to shoot with live rounds, and then with beanbags, the SOP needs to be re-written.

Ken Long

Kudos to Mr. Fisher for saying it better than anyone else so far.

Pierce Knolls

In all the law enforcement "use of force" training I ever received (twenty years ago) there was always a very heavy emphasis placed on the value of human life. You can't un-kill someone. We were constantly reminded that deadly force should only be used in response to an imminent, immediate, and potentially deadly threat. And we would have laughed out loud at any of our guys had they gone around claiming to be a warrior. A smart and situationally aware peace officer is a better public servant than an aggressive warrior any day.

Peter Neal

Police Officers should be trained to handle ANY possible situation. That said, employing a curriculum that appears to place Officers in an adversarial mindset during every public contact is not, in my opinion, advisable.
As a former LEO, I can recall numerous situations when I or other Officers would be dealing with an individual who was "difficult", and another Officer (who was known to be less than diplomatic when dealing with the public - and there were a few cops like that) - would arrive on scene.
I would think, here goes, now this will be more challenging- as I would try to stop the confrontational Officer from escalating the situation. There are a few Officers who have poor "people skills" . I'm not sure if that can be fixed in a sixteen week long academy- but it sure can be made worse.

Mark Ortiz

Thanks for your service and comments Mr. Neal.

Tim Hamilton

I liked your reply. It's very level-headed. Please do not take my postings as something directed towards guys like you. You obviously are one of what is becoming a rare breed of the "good ones."

Michael Grimler

The bottom line is that most of the general public are completely ignorant of how dangerous police work is.

When that is pointed out, however, the major reaction seems to be "...then they shouldn't have signed up to be in law enforcement."

Just because someone wants to serve the public doesn't mean they must accept being hurt or killed -- police have the right and duty to protect themselves, their fellow officers, and the public in general. Just because they are attacked by someone resisting arrest doesn't mean they should lie back, take it, and wind up being badly hurt or killed.

The training discussed in this article has some holes in it...all training material does...but, the fact remains that officer survival training comes from the hard lessons learned from law enforcement across the nation where other officers were hurt or killed because of their inaction or failure to be in control or making bad assumptions regarding contact with citizens who started off being cooperative, but had harm or murder on their minds. Things can go from calm to total terror in a microsecond.

It's a fine line for police -- try to be nice and respectful during citizen contacts, but also have a plan to act to survive if things go south, because too many times, they do.

For those of you who believe they know better, ask for a demo of the simulation trainer at the academy. You might have a better idea of what it's really like on the streets.

Mark Ortiz

"It's a fine line for police -- try to be nice and respectful during citizen contacts, but also have a plan to act to survive if things go south, because too many times, they do."

Let me adjust the last part of your statement to avoid fiction.

"...if things go south," because too many times hot headed cops that think they are above the public they are hired to protect, will do their do their damnedest to provoke any little reaction so they can justify committing violence on the public.

Yeah that looks more like the truth.

Too high a number that go to the Academy already have this thirst for oppression and violence in their DNA. This curriculum seems to support keeping the status quo.

Tim Hamilton

You, Mr. Grimler, are full of it. As of the mid-nineteenth century 146 total NM officers, ranging from old-timey sheriffs and marshals to "modern-day" (so-called) peace officers have died while on duty. 86 of them from gunshot, and 5 more were stabbed. It is far more dangerous to drive a cab for a living than to be a police officer. Police have learned how to become the enemy of the general public, not an ally. Ask ANY actual police officer - not your wannabe warrior buddies - what they think, and they ill tell you that guys like you are a major danger to yourselves.

The earliest officer to die by gunfire in NM was a constable in the Albuquerque area. He died July 24, 1868. From 1868 to now - if you averaged it out - that works out to 1.69 officers per year since then. And we are talking about people who actually go LOOKING for trouble! In Albuquerque alone, 25 people were shot by APD officers, 17 died of their wounds. If this number was averaged out, I think you might find it more dangerous to be a citizen in a police state.

Violence begats violence... Clear-headed officers look for ways to de-escalate situations so that situations are brought under control in a more reasonable way. That's what the good ones do... Ask them!

Mark Ortiz

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Mark Ortiz

Guys like Grimler and Fisher are probably elated when a cop shoots a civilian but then must mourn the loss of a bullet.

Tim Hamilton

Sorry, faulty math there... if 86 officers died from gunshot wounds between 1868 and now, it comes to .59 of one person a year, not 1.69 officers a year. Police do not even make it into the Top 10 Most Dangerous Occupations. Fishing still ranks #1 most dangerous. Natural resources and Mining ranks at #10.

oscar michael

not just your math, but your whole argument is faulty. Police have the training and means to defend themselves from violent injury. That could be why the number of deaths in the profession is lower than fishermen or miners. Not much you can do to defend against a mine collapse or falling overboard in cold water. Are you saying that the 111 officers killed last year was not enough in proportion to the number of civilians shot by police? " violence begets violence'? Should we arm our police with nothing more than rainbows and daisies, because their happiness would beget more happiness? You referenced shooting at minivans earlier. Do you not think that drivers in the area after that event were not put in any escalated danger by the actions of that woman and her son? Every time a situation anywhere involves an injury or death of an officer, they must apply the lessons learned to the next situation. Therefore if the driver before you fled the scene and endangered the police, you will be subject to the protocol set forth by those previous incidents.

oscar michael

How do you figure it to be more dangerous to drive a cab than to work in law enforcement? do you call the cab company anytime your life, property or safety is in danger? You characterize police as "looking for trouble", but where do you get the picture of the evil officer paroling the streets looking for an innocent victim to arrest? I don't know any officer who calls your house looking for your drunk uncle who is beating his wife, or actively searches the streets for "potential" drugged up burglary suspects! The fact is you call them to deal with the worst situations that you can not or will not confront on your own. You curse them when they were not there to prevent a crime, and curse them when they do what is necessary to stop a crime. They work their ass off dealing with the worst of our community for not much compensation. You expect them to be on duty 24/7 all while acting as a parent, referee, psychologist, grief counselor, dog catcher, traffic director, or whatever else YOU call on them to be that day. While they may not all be good, they are definitely not all bad! Ask them what they deal with on a daily basis and picture yourself having to do the same. Maybe you would appreciate the danger they face just a bit more.

Eli Chavez

Police are not Warriors, Police must be trained to serve and protect the public. Combat Veteran Col. Jones appears to be hooked by the EVIL NRA training of Police to become Para Military Police. The New Mexico State Police Review Board is a rubber stamp for Combat Veteran Jones. Has the New Mexico Training Academy become an SS Type training Center for the NRA? The NRA is responsible for providing so called Expert Advise and Training of Police Agencies throughout the United States of America. The NRA lobbied State Legislators to pass "Stand Your Ground Legislation in GOP Controlled States". The legislation has been used to Kill innocent Americans. Time to Challenge Col. Jones and his training policies. Where is Gov. Martinez... are you going to allow extremest to train our Police at the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy?

Colleen Harper

“Overall, I can’t say I’m impressed with the set of documents, other than to note that most are poorly prepared.”

From the one example, I'm left to believe the author of this training manual barely knows the field of law enforcement. The quality of writing ranks more in keeping with poorly-written conspiracy blogs than in keeping with post-secondary school educational material.

Tim Hamilton

The quality of writing is more in line with Middle School. One would think that such an important document would - at the least - be deserving of proper editing.

What was most alarming to me were the words of the academy director, Jack Jones, who said, “I’ll burn them before you get them” when a copy of the curriculum (training material) was requested. Even then parts of it were redacted.

Joseph Hempfling

Another case of the birds coming home to roost ! I was brought up in a lower working class blue collar neighborhood in Brooklyn and spent close to twenty years experiecing and witnessing police repression, violence, racial profillng, class discrimination etc. mainly against Puerto Ricans and Blacks, and find it ironic that this same mentality;" us against them," has now made it into mainstream America and where you and I now live. And just like then and as we all know, it starts with Top Management and is not written down in any regulations and/or training curriculum And the cops in the street ie. the modern day soldiers, know it and also know what they can and cannot get away with including on the spot assassinations.
And until they are held accountable and Managements approach changes, nothing else will. And expect it to get worse as our country continues to spiral to the bottom, thanks to casino capitalism and which has bankrupted us economically and morally.

Pierce Knolls

When did cops stop being protectors of the peace and start being warriors?

Julian R. Grace

Until you have been the victim of police brutality you will most likely see all police as heroes.

shelly gold

Not true. All you have to do is read the news from around the country. It seems like I read about police using unnecessary deadly force every day. I haven't been brutalized, but I have seen police react to me in unbelievably bazaar ways, displaying real fear in the face of an unarmed middle-aged woman - me. I think if I ever so much as opened a door during a police stop, I would be in danger of being shot to death.

Henry Bowman

The curriculum seems designed to make officers fearful, despite the fact the cops don't have particularly dangerous jobs. Cops who "fear for their lives" (the standard excuse they use after each of their murders) should not be armed.: they need a desk job, or a different job.

The Albuquerque Police Dept (known to some as Murder, Inc) seems to have mastered this portion of the curriculum.

Alexander Fisher

I believe our police officers are brave people and I very much respect what they do for us in the line of duty. It is a fact that we live in a disrespectful society where the perpetrator has all the rights. Even our justice system has it's hand tied. Whenever I see a police officer and get the chance, I thank them for what they do. Thank God we have them. Whatever protection we can give in helping them do their difficult job is warranted. The pendulum needs to swing back to teaching respect in our society for those who serve us.
Alexander Fisher Santa Fe NM

Andrew Lucero

Amen Mr. Fisher...AMEN!

Colleen Harper

Should the academy teach officer candidates that they should suspect every citizen first, or respect every citizen first?

The first leads to propensity of violent confrontations, the second to community involvement.

shelly gold

Dear Republican Fisher,

The police forces are often composed of a high percentage of people with a pathological need to be in control. A gun and a badge give them what they need- then, watch out! Along with those people are ex-military who are trained to kill. They are given priority in hiring. This is certainly not everyone involved in law enforcement, but certainly describes a great number of them. Now they are being taught to fear everyone because their lives are in danger. How do you think that is going to play out? As it stands now, there are far more people shot to death by fearful or cruel, prejudiced officers, than police office shot in the line of duty. Many jobs are dangerous and involve possible loss of life. Think miners, for instance, or people working in meat packing plants. This whole business of ":thank you for your service" for the military and police, rather than teachers, is really pretty warped in my opinion.

Mark Ortiz

AMEN Shelly Gold!
As for Sheeple like Alexander Fisher above, maybe you need to look into Al Gore's invention called the internet and search how many innocent people have unnecessarily died at the hands of overzealous untouchable violent minded cops. These bad apples NEVER get indicted by a Grand Jury. We as a society have blindly placed them on a pedestal and anointed them heroes just for taking the job. When an innocent member of the public is killed by one of these so-called heroes, well that 's just acceptable collateral damage for the sheeply Fisher's and Grimler's of the world. The only person on here who seems to know what he's talking about is Peter Neal. Grimler, go back to cleaning your guns and Fisher, thanks for taking a break from Fox news to add you drivel, well except your sentence that I've taken the liberty to edit,
"I believe (SOME to MOST) our police officers are brave people (THOUGH I"D TRADE FOR SENSIBLE ANYDAY) and I very much respect (SUPPORT THE IDEA) what they do for us (ARESUPPOSED TO BE DOING FOR US) in the line of duty.
If you believe Jennette Anaya was justifiably killed by NMSP officer Oliver Wilson well maybe North Korea maybe more to your liking.

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