The murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis Police Officer was, for many, the “last straw” in a long history of racial injustice in our country. Spurring a worldwide Black Lives Matter movement, it has forced scrutiny of law enforcement policies and tactics across the nation.
The towns of Winter Park and Fraser and our local police department were quick to respond. On June 19, the mayors and police chief released a Joint Statement that read:
“As representatives of the Towns of Fraser and Winter Park, we are making this statement on behalf of our communities.
Fraser and Winter Park are inclusive communities where we celebrate diversity and value all residents and guests. We believe everyone deserves equality and the right to freedom from discrimination. While hateful and intolerant ideologies exist in our nation, they have absolutely no place in our community and we are committed to everyone’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status or political affiliation.
We are proud of our commitment to community policing and our long-standing Use of Force Policies that include: a ban on chokeholds and neck restraints, require de-escalation and crisis intervention training, require a use of force warning (when practicable), establish that physical force only be used as a last resort, establish a duty to intervene for all officers, strongly restrict shooting at moving vehicles, provide training for officers in the use of force continuum, and mandate use of force reporting and documentation.
The Fraser Winter Park Police Department was formed by two communities who came together to better serve their citizens. The philosophy of serving our citizens as guardians in a positive, respectful manner has been a core value of our department since its formation.
We welcome and support the right to peaceful protests against systemic racism, oppression, social injustice and inequity. We are committed to listen, learn and support respectful community dialogue. We ask our residents and visitors to share our values to ensure that all may enjoy the beauty and sanctity to be found in our community.”
On Tuesday evening, June 30, the Winter Park Town Council and Fraser Board of Trustees held a joint Workshop at the Winter Park Town Hall to hear Police Chief Glen Trainor further clarify the Use of Force philosophies, policies and practices of the Fraser Winter Park Police Department.
Trainor explained how the department was formed in 2005. “Fifteen years have gone by very fast,” he said, adding, “I cannot think of a place I would rather work than Fraser and Winter Park. It has been an absolute blessing. A lot of that has been through the support of our elected officials. You have left us alone to do our jobs. I want to express my heartfelt appreciation for your support.”
Chief Trainor walked through his presentation, first outlining Minimum Force Necessary – Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.” Trainor said “Our job is not to punish people or exact revenge, but to bring order back to society”
Priorities of Life places importance on saving the lives of hostages, innocent civilians, police officers and other first responders as well as criminal suspects. Lethal force is always the last, but sometimes the only reasonable option. “Even lawful and righteous use of force is not pretty to watch. By its very nature, using force is not a pretty thing,” said Trainor.
The department’s motto is “Committed to Excellence”. The Law Enforcement Oath of Honor they subscribe to states, “On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always uphold the constitution, my community, and the agency I serve.”
“Our primary duty as Law Enforcement officers is three things: Service, Justice and Fundamental Fairness,” said Trainor. He added a quote from Sir Robert Peel that said, “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.”
A part of the Imagine Winter Park survey conducted in 2019 showed that 73% of respondents felt very safe, 21% felt somewhat safe, and less than 6% were average or felt somewhat or very unsafe in the town of Winter Park. Trainor said much of the positive response was probably due to the presence of the local police department. “They take their jobs very seriously. Their desire to serve others is utmost on their mind all the times,” he said.
On the subject of Internal Integrity, Trainor had created an Integrity Triad with three principles. The first is High Standards. “You have to have high standards of your law enforcement officers.” Trainor explained the department has been operating for the last several years one to two officers down, because while they have had applicants, they haven’t found the right candidates with high ethical standards. “Our officers have stated they would rather go short handed than have somebody that doesn’t meet the standards of this department.”
Relationships & Trust. We cannot do any of this without relationships within our community and mutual trust. Trust from our own team members, town employees and trust with our citizens. That is something we always have to strive to do better at, because as you know, trust takes a long time to gain, but it can be lost in just a master of moments through our actions or somebody else’s actions.”
Mutual Accountability. “One of the tenets we have is that no matter what position you have or what rank you hold, you are mutually accountable for the people around you.” Trainor explained that if one of his employees sees another doing something that is wrong, they have permission to say something to correct it. “It has to be that way for us to work together.”
One of the department’s Core values is Courage. “We will do and say what is right, graciously accepting both the sacrifices involved and the consequences of our actions.”
“What we don’t talk about is the kind of courage it takes to come along and check on someone and see if they’re okay,” said Trainor. “We have to be better at having the courage to reach out to others and support them in a way that lifts them up and holds them accountable.”
The department utilizes Lexipol, a web-based service that is updated daily. Daily bulletins, which officers must complete 30 of each month, provide training on high risk, low frequency events such as pursuits, use of deadly force, conduct. “The kinds of things that don’t happen very often and they don’t happen often enough to get good at them.” Trainor said the department’s Policy Manual is 400 pages long, but with daily training bulletins, the officers are continuously updated.
The department’s Mission Statement is “Serving others to make a difference”. Trainor said that by keeping that in mind, when an officer is out on the road, he may not always make the best decision, but likely won’t make a wrong decision.
Colorado requires 24 hours of training annually, 12 of which is skills training. In 2019, the department’s law enforcement officers averaged 169 hours.
8 Can’t Wait – 8 policies designed to reduce officer deaths. “I don’t know why this is such a big issue right now. We have had most of these policies in effect since we started the police department. Some have been tweaked over time, based on case law, but we do all of these things and have done them for a long time.
De-escalation. Officers are trained annually through Police 1 Academy. They also send officers to Crisis Intervention training. Over half of staff have been trained on crisis intervention, the rest have taken Mental Health First Aid. “De-escalation is not a new thing. It’s just communication skills,” said Trainor. “It’s what we do on a daily basis. We talk far more people into handcuffs than we do into fighting. That’s just what we do.”
Trainor said the department had made the decision collectively, based on national best practice standards, to leave an individual threatening suicide who is in their house, not threatening anybody but themselves. The reasoning is that a lot of lethal force incidents happen when officers go to confront those people to take them into custody to help them.
Trainor said most of the arrests made are cooperative about 98% of the time. In 2019, the department used force to effect arrest in 19 incidents. The vast majority were taking somebody to the ground and handcuffing them. The most serious injury somebody had was some scrapes. He added that more officers sustained injury than defendants. Out of 311 arrests made in 2019,
Trainor noted, “We don’t use force much in the Fraser Winter Park Police Department. I take that back to our high standards and the relationships we have with the community.” The department responded to a total of 4,800 calls and had over 15,000 citizen contacts.
Duty to Intercede. The department has had the policy in effect since 2012. “We mandate that if somebody sees an officer using force that is beyond that which is reasonable, they have to step in and stop that use of unreasonable force.” The officer must also report their observations to a supervisor.
Reporting use of force. The policy has been in effect since 2005. Required in all instances of force higher than verbal persuasions or warnings; Open display of any weapon (i.e. firearm, baton, Taser, etc.); Mandatory supervisory interview of the subject if injured; Supervisory review of body camera footage; Use of Force Review Board if serious injuries or fatal.
Less Lethal Options. The department policy states, ““The head, neck, throat, spine, heart, kidneys and groin should not be intentionally targeted except when the officer reasonably believes the suspect poses an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death to the officer or others.”
Subjects armed with deadly weapons should only be deployed when an officer with lethal force is also present.
First Aid. When an officer encounters a subject in a state of Excited Delirium – Persons who exhibit extreme agitation, violent irrational behavior and extraordinary strength… are at risk for sudden death…they should be considered as medical emergencies. 911 is called in these cases.
When injuries are sustained while being taken into custody, the policy states, “Whenever practicable, members should take appropriate steps to provide initial medical aid …in accordance with their training and current certification levels. This should be done for those in need of immediate care and only when the member can safely do so.”
“2020 for a lot of us has been one of the worst ones ever,” said Trainor. “In a lot of ways, it has been very tough. The negative press we have received has demoralized literally every officer. It makes it difficult to move forward. It is just not who we are as a community. As we move forward, I ask you all to remember – we are not just guys wearing badges. We are fathers, sons, grandparents and spouses. I think it is categorically unfair to categorize all police officers as bad, wanting to be cruel and inhumane. Doing that is the same kind of intolerance that people are rallying against. Our officers want to serve their communities and they want to go home every night,” said Trainor. “It is an honor and a privilege to serve this community. I would just ask that, if you hear people talking bad about our department, you help them understand that we are people, too. We are willing to lay down our lives to keep you safe.”