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Chicago police beef up training efforts

The plan calls for the training to expand to 40 hours a year for every officer beginning in 2021, up from 16 hours next year


By Jeremy Gorner
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — Beginning next year, every Chicago cop will undergo hours of training each year, the first regular training for many since graduating from the police academy as new recruits.

The ambitious plan laid out by the Police Department on Thursday calls for the training to expand to 40 hours a year for every officer beginning in 2021, up from 16 hours next year. It comes as the department also attempts to add nearly 1,000 officers to its force by the end of next year — recruits who all must undergo months of training before hitting the street.

Meanwhile, the department said it expects the vast majority of officers to have completed a four-hour course on its revised use-of-force policy by Oct. 15, when those changes are scheduled to take effect.

The department has moved to beef up its training efforts in the aftermath of the court-ordered release in late 2015 of police dashboard camera video showing a Chicago police officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times.

A scathing U.S. Department of Justice report in January described the Police Department as a broken institution and singled out negligent training as among its many deficiencies.

Besides checking each year on officers’ proper use of weapons, the department generally did not require cops to return to the police academy for retraining, the Justice Department noted. Instead, the department provided only sporadic in-service training, refresher training through videos or new directives for officers to learn about during their roll calls.

The department has already started requiring officers to take classes on Taser use, crisis intervention and training geared toward de-escalating incidents.

But in announcing the new training guidelines on Thursday, First Deputy Superintendent Kevin Navarro told reporters even he had not gone through such a comprehensive regimen since he attended the police academy more than 30 years ago.

“That’s something that we definitely need to change,” Navarro said. “It’s a win for Chicago police officers, and it’s a win also for Chicagoans.”

Beginning next year, officers will be required to undergo 16 hours of mandatory training, half dedicated to new scenario-based training for the department’s revamped use-of-force policy.

The hours of training will increase in each of the following three years — to 24 in 2019, 32 in 2020 and 40 in 2021. After that, officers will continue to undergo 40 hours of training each year.

Navarro gave no estimate for the cost of the increased training regimen for the 12,000-strong department.

The commander overseeing the police academy acknowledged Thursday the challenge faced by the department — requiring all of its veteran officers to go through mandatory training while the police academy staff will also be training waves of new recruits as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s goal to add nearly 1,000 new cops by the end of 2018.

“The academy, and the department as a whole, is committed to making this happen,” Cmdr. Daniel Godsel told reporters at police headquarters.

“We’re hopeful that this annual training will allow CPD officers to keep themselves safe, while making Chicago and its residents safer in the process,” he said.

For the 16-hour requirement next year, officers will be required to undergo eight hours of scenario-based training on the department’s revamped use-of-force policy. The other eight hours will focus on topics such as de-escalating tense encounters, dealing with people with mental health issues, training on counterterrorism measures and refreshers on state and federal laws. As officers complete more hours of training through 2021, they also must take courses on procedural justice, police report writing, vehicle pursuits and firearms training.

Other courses available to the officers will include such topics as community policing, cultural competency, civil rights, human rights and a medical rescue training course that teaches officers to use tourniquets and other first aid on crime or traffic crash victims.

On Thursday, Navarro also announced that all officers will have “substantially completed” the four-hour classroom-based training on the new use-of-force policy by Oct. 15.

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©2017 the Chicago Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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