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New Training To Brush Up Police Communication Skills

Hansi Lo Wang

Police officers in Seattle and the rest of King County will undergo new training in communication skills. The city's police department and the county sheriff's office announced the new training program on Monday in Seattle. KUOW's Hansi Lo Wang has more.


The announcement comes less than a month after the federal Justice Department launched an investigation of Seattle's police. But the city's police department and the King County sheriff's office say there have been ongoing discussions about how to improve police officers' communications skills. Assistant Police Chief Mike Sanford oversees the department's Patrol Operations Bureau.

Sanford: "Certainly the, some of the, uh, high–profile incidents that have happened fairly recently create a sense of urgency and, and create that perception that, ah, this is reactive. But in fact, it's something that's been ongoing."

The Justice Department is currently looking into several recent incidents involving improper use of force by Seattle police officers against people they had detained. Sanford says now all officers will be trained to use verbal skills before resorting to physical force in stressful situations with no immediate threat.

The ACLU of Washington has been a critic of Seattle's police tactics. But the organization said the new training program will help improve relations between police and citizens. Doug Honig is a spokesman for the ACLU.

Honig: "One of the things the ACLU and other groups in the community have been talking about is the need for officers to have more tools to deescalate situations so that you don't get to the situation where force is being used unnecessarily. And this is a valuable step in that direction."

At Monday's press conference, King County Sheriff Sue Rahr said it will take about a year for all police officers and deputies to receive the new training.

For KUOW News, I'm Hansi Lo Wang.

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