DENVER – The Denver Police Department is going "Back 2 Basics," sending every single officer through a week-long training session.
“We are asking our officers to take a step back and say, 'Do you remember why you took this job? Do you realize what this job has done to you over the course of the career? Do you still have the ability to communicate with someone who is non-verbal?' It’s easy to say, 'I’m in uniform and I’m in charge, do what I say.' Do you have ability to talk to someone in crisis, slow it down and have empathy?" technician Tyrone Campbell said,
This massive undertaking began 2 1/2 years ago. The last of the 1,500 officers just completed the course. They covered ethics, de-escalation, bias and stress.
Officers spent time in the state-of-the-art simulator as well as real-life scenarios.
"I think our job as a training academy is to give them tools to not only make them good police officers, but it’s to make them good people, not only good at work, but also at home," Campbell said.
Officers also took part in a community service project.
“We have sent officers to our homeless shelters, we have sent officers to DPS, we have sent officers to Denver Health adolescent psych unit," Campbell said.
DPD officers have also spent time at Laradon, a facility for developmentally and intellectually challenged children and adults.
“We have one young lady in transitions program. When we started this program, she wouldn’t interact with the police officers at all. Yesterday, it was so great Sgt, Saunders [was] in the group. She told him, 'You sit,' and picked out the colors for him. She picked out the page for him to color," Laradon volunteer coordinator Angela Rotello said. “It gives our individuals the opportunity to interact with officers in a calm environment so when they do have to interact with the police out in the community, it’s not so intimidating. It gives them peace of mind they can be heard and understood.”
“It’s been an extremely rewarding journey for us. It was fun to see those officers go through this transition. It’s also been cool to see our officers get into a wagon at Children’s Hospital and get pulled around, cool to see [the] SWAT team kneeling down with developmentally delayed [people]," Campbell said.
As a result of this program, DPD has done more than 6,000 hours of community engagement and 18 percent of their officers have signed up on their own to help the homeless population.
Officers have also donated 77 gallons of blood and platelets to Children’s Hospital.
“For us, it was looking forward. And how do we stay where we want to be and how do we become the premier agency our citizens expect and deserve?" Campbell said.