This guest column by SVPD Chief Adam Thrasher was published in the Herald/Review today.
Over the last week many people have asked me and fellow members of the Sierra Vista Police Department about our thoughts on the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. As police officers, we were horrified by the actions of our peers and their total disregard for Mr. Floyd’s life. What the officers did contradicts all of our training and everything the men and women of the Sierra Vista Police Department stand for. We have a great responsibility to treat everyone with dignity and the actions of the officers in Minneapolis are a stain on our profession. Everyone should be outraged by what these officers did to Mr. Floyd and we, as law enforcement officers, must be better.
As we share in the anger and outrage for what these officers did to Mr. Floyd, we support those who need to express their outrage in a peaceful way. I know the community is concerned about how the Sierra Vista Police Department is prepared to protect everyone’s right to free speech while also protecting lives and property. The Sierra Vista Police Department takes great pride in the quality of our department members, our culture of client service, our policies and procedures, and our training that enables us to protect the community while also supporting everyone’s constitutional rights.
In 2014, the Sierra Vista Police Department became one of 12 Arizona agencies internationally accredited through the Commission on the Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). Our policies and procedures meet the internationally accredited standards of this voluntary program for such topics as constitutional compliance; the use, reporting, and review of police use of force; preventing bias-based policing; pursuits; response to major community incidents; training; and the reporting, investigation, and review of complaints on officers. Accreditation helps create a culture of analysis, self-evaluation, and continuous improvement. Our officers also receive over 100 hours of training each year in numerous areas including constitutional and criminal law, bias-based policing, de-escalation techniques, crowd control, firearms, defensive tactics, and client service.
A large portion of our training is dedicated to constitutional law and police use of force training, including managing large crowds. In 2010, our department emphasized a change from police “use of force” to “subject management.” The change is indicative of our philosophy that police use of force is not the objective, but rather managing behavior to gain compliance as safely as possible for all involved. Much of the training is scenario-based and includes verbal de-escalation techniques, in addition to traditional defensive tactics, firearms, and crowd control training.
Our department’s client service training program, Service with Honor, has been the foundation of the Sierra Vista Police Department’s culture for well over 30 years. The cornerstones of this program are treating everyone with respect and providing the best possible service. This means taking a balanced approach to enforcement actions with an emphasis on gaining voluntary compliance through education. All department members are expected to speak out when they see wrongdoing, and a culture of open-door policies for department members and the public allows for swift recognition of problems. Being accountable for our actions and being transparent with the public are hallmarks of our department’s culture.
We recognize that individuals have incited violence and looting in other parts of our state and in cities across our nation. The Sierra Vista Police Department will be ready to protect community members and property if needed. But we also know that these acts of violence only serve to divide us and are not reflective of the broader protests and peaceful movement expressing outrage against the horrific death of George Floyd and demanding accountability for those responsible.
We believe the American people remain united in this outrage and we agree that we must do better as law enforcement officers. The Sierra Vista Police Department is fortunate to receive tremendous support and trust from our local community and we do not take that for granted. It is something we must continue to earn every day.