NYPD cops call Eric Garner training ‘boring’ and ‘waste of time’

Reuters / Carlo Allegri
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $35 million “smart policing” training program instituted after the death of Eric Garner has consisted mostly of “boring” lectures and little hands-on training, according to a source.

The New York Police Department has reviewed half of the surveys filled out by the 4,000 police officers that have taken the three-day training program,accordingto the New York Post’s “high-ranking source,” and cops are reportedly calling the course a “waste of time.”

The training includes two days of mostly lectures on policing tactics and one day of training officers how to use a “high-low takedown” to subdue suspects rather than a chokehold, the source said. The NYPD began offering the training last year following the incident in which Eric Garner, an unarmed black man accused of illegally selling cigarettes, died after being placed in a chokehold by Officer Daniel Pantaleo.

Many officers have fallen asleep during the sessions, the Post added, as 16,000 others wait for their turn at the training.

Though maneuvers like the one used last July by Pantaleo on Garner are illegal for local police to use, a recent review found that officers were quick to employ the tactic and were rarely punished to a considerable extent for doing so.

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“Officers thought they were going to get some real hands-on, quality training on how to deal with a hostile prisoner or arrestee,” the Post source said. “They didn’t get that.”

Eight-hour lectures at the NYPD’s $750 million academy in Queens – equipped with a mock bank, bodega, and police cars – have put some participants to sleep, he said.

“It’s three days, it’s boring and there’s no real tactics,” the source stated. “They’re not putting them in scenarios. Cops felt they would get more tactical training in light of the Eric Garner case.”

The first day of the training focuses on a workshop called 'Blue Courage,' which focuses on, according to the organization’s website, “self-improvement, increased engagement, stress-management, developing resilience, igniting culture change, combatting cynicism, while improving overall health and well-being.”

“It’s more of a self-reflection kind of course,” the source said. “Reflecting on how they can improve as police officers.”

The second day consists of discussions about the “the legitimacy of policing — why police officers do what they do,” he said.

The third day is held at a gym, as officers are taught the “high-low takedown” move that allows two officers to secure a suspect – one from behind the legs and one in front of the torso.

“There’s not enough tactical, hands-on training,” the source said. “This should be 100 percent hands-on training, not sitting in a classroomeating breath mintsbecause it’s going to make you curse less.”

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Mayor de Blasio announced the training initiative in December as part of an initiative spearheaded with NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton’s stated effort to “refocus the department” after Garner’s death and amid widespread community anger over the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program, which was deemed by a federal judge to be a systemically racist policing strategy that violated constitutional rights.

“To refocus it requires training and the enhancement of skills that are so necessary to reach the commitment that we made to the community to police fairly, impartially and safely,” Bratton said in December.

The training program materialized after civil unrest and mass protests following a grand jury’s decision not to indict Pantaleo despite video evidence of the encounter with Garner. This decision came days after a Missouri grand jury chose not to indict Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. The subsequent protests and demonstrations that broke out nationwide following the dual decisions increased scrutiny on police aggression and militarization, racial profiling, and the overall devaluation of black lives in America.

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Police officers and their supporters were at odds with de Blasio after the mayor offered sympathy to protesters while denouncing the kind of aggressive policing tactics that killed Garner. He said he shared the fears of the city's minority communities, as his son is half-black, and that danger could come to his son both from criminals and "the very people they (children) want to have faith in as their protectors."

“The training that’s going to happen here in this building will change the future of this city,” de Blasio said in December. “It will have not just an impact on thousands of people, it will have an impact on millions of people, because every interaction that every officer has with their fellow New Yorkers after they are trained again will be different.”

Two NYPD officers were fatally shot later in December, exacerbating divisions between the force and the mayor.