Police Academy instructor shares what future cops are taught about use of force in RI
As clashes with police are running rampant across the country on a nearly daily basis in the wake of George Floyd’s death, a “use of force” instructor at the Municipal Police Academy said officers are upset about what happened.
Floyd, 46, died on Memorial Day as a Minneapolis Police Officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Four former officers have been charged, including one, Derek Chauvin, with second-degree murder.
Ofc. David Bissonnette is with the Middletown Police Department but has also been teaching the use of force at the Municipal Police Academy for the past 16 years.
He called Floyd’s death a tragedy and said other officers are upset.
“There’s not anyone more upset about what happened than other police officers,” he said. “We’re trying to regain our balance here as a profession.”
In the viral video, Chauvin is seen putting Floyd in a neck restraint with his knee on the concrete until Floyd fell unconscious.
Bissonnette said that technique has not been taught to Rhode Island officers for decades, even when he went to the academy in 2001.
“There are bones in the neck you can very easily break by putting a lot of weight on there,” Bissonnette said. “There are veins in there that restrict blood flow where if you put pressure on them, veins that will restrict blood flow to the brain, and knock somebody out cold.”
He also said that the restraint “can kill somebody.”
Before Chauvin placed Floyd in that restraint, Floyd was seen on surveillance video inside the police car before being taken back out by officers.
According to Bissonnette, officers in the state rarely take a suspect out of a car, with very few exceptions.
“If they’re sitting in the car and they’re on their way to jail, there’s usually not a reason we’re going to take them out minus, obviously, a medical emergency or to adjust handcuffs, or to release them,” he said.
Things have changed drastically in the last few years, as more is known on what physical encounters can do to a person’s psychology.
“How a human being, not just the suspect but the police officer, how they will react under stress. What happens to their body, what happens to them psychologically,” he said.
Bissonnette said he would like to see departments put on some refresher courses for veteran officers when it comes to the use of force.
“What I’d like to see is police departments across the state allocate more money into their budgets for use of force training,” he said.
As for the future of law enforcement, future officers are being pushed to use de-escalation tactics, with the use of force being an absolute last resort.
He admits there are problems in the country, and it’s incumbent upon police officers to do what they can to change it.
“Getting to know the people you serve on a first-name basis, and letting them know you’re there for them, not just to arrest them,” he said. “If we’re protesting what happened to Mr. Floyd, I’ll walk with them. I’ll kneel down and pray with them. That’s how you’re going to repair the problems in the community.”
Bissonnette said he will be using the George Floyd video to teach future officers what not to do in the field when it comes to the use of force.