To the people we serve in the State of Washington:
For the past four years leaders of the Criminal Justice Training Commission have worked closely with community stakeholders to reduce the use of deadly force in this state and continue to build public trust. The video images of the death of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis are devastating in so many ways, causing grief and fear in our communities and severely damaging trust and confidence in police.
One of the most important lessons we have learned in listening to and working with community stakeholders is the value of communication and transparency. So we have posted a video of the training we give to peace officers in our state about the proper use of the knee on the back to restrain a suspect who is being taken into custody. We want the people we serve to know that we do NOT train officers to place their knee on a person’s neck either in the process of gaining control or while they are being restrained awaiting transport.
In discussions with our lead trainers for Control and Defensive Tactics, after watching the video from Minneapolis, we asked, “Do we explicitly tell our student NOT to place their knee on the back of the subject’s neck?” The incredulous response from our trainers was, “No, because it’s so obviously inappropriate and dangerous. We do teach about “red areas” on the body that are considered off limits unless deadly force is necessary to save your life or the life of others.
Part of our training mission is to learn from experience and adapt our training. This is so important that we will no longer assume that students see what is obvious to trainers. Effective immediately, our trainers will explicitly state in training that placing the knee on a subject’s neck and applying pressure is deadly and should never be done unless the situation clearly warrants the use of deadly force.
The Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission and our partners have been working diligently in partnership with our community representatives to implement the Law Enforcement Training and Community Safety Act, which began with I-940. Many improvements have been made to our training, particularly in the area of De-Escalation in patrol tactics. This video reminds us of the importance and urgency of that work. Please know that every member of our team is deeply committed to justice and protecting human life.