Proactive efforts to ensure equity in policing

By Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts

It’s difficult to explain how shocked I was to see the footage that led up to the death of George Floyd. I have been a police officer for more than 28 years, and the absolute arrogance and neglect of duty former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin displayed as Mr. Floyd struggled to breathe appalled me. Every officer on the scene had a duty to take control of that situation as soon as they saw that Mr. Floyd was in distress.

Many community members have reached out and asked me what we have done and are doing to prevent such a tragic incident from happening in Bloomington. First let me emphasize that we expect our officers to treat everyone in custody with respect and dignity. While we are always learning and striving to cultivate a police department with officers with the skills to handle all situations appropriately, I am proud that we have already taken significant steps so something like this doesn’t happen in Bloomington.

Hiring 

When hiring new officers, one of the primary skills we look for is a person’s ability to talk with people. Communication is the foundation necessary to de-escalate all tense situations. We also conduct extensive background investigations and a detailed psychological exam on all of our recruits. 

Training 

Once hired, officers attend a six-week training academy, even if they come from other agencies. This includes training on implicit bias and procedural justice. Our defensive tactics training starts with de-escalation, and our policy emphasizes the sanctity of life. Our arrest philosophy is to use only the amount of force necessary, to be quick, decisive and efficient with the arrest, and to allow the person to quickly recover and to render aid if needed. 

Once a new officer successfully completes the training academy, they participate in four months of field training. During this time they shadow various field training officers who are tasked with preparing them for independent patrol work. Our command unit works closely with street patrol supervisors. All patrol divisions have a commander in place who monitors work conditions and behavior. This framework helps us identify potential bad behavior so we can intervene before potential negative incidents.

Officer checkups and wellness program

The department recently implemented a new employee tracking software that functions as an early warning detection system. It enables supervisors to monitor officer behavior and intervene before behaviors become problematic. 

We are also in the process of adopting a wellness program which will incorporate a mandatory annual “checkup from the neck up.”  This will include a meeting with a licensed police therapist who will assess an officer’s mental wellness, and the impact that job stress may have on their behaviors.

Reducing deadly force encounters

The Department of Public Safety just concluded the Police-Involved Deadly Force Encounter working group that met over the last year. Their report was issued in February. Here in Bloomington, we have already adopted many of the recommendations put forward in the report. This includes using a multicultural advisory committee as a consulting body, increasing training hours on de-escalation, mandating annual racial equity training for all officers, participating in the Joint Community Police Partnership program with a community liaison to enhance communication with law enforcement and multicultural communities, and more. Visit blm.mn/chiefsmessage to see the full list. 

Community engagement

Our department makes significant efforts to interact with the community on a daily basis. Whether it’s individual interactions or community events like Coffee with a Cop, this kind of intentional relationship building allows us to solidify a foundation of trust with our community. It also enables us to respond to community needs proactively. 

Our commitment to you

We will use this moment as an opportunity to listen to the needs of our community. We will strive to continue learning from our mistakes, and from the mistakes of others. We remain committed to providing our community with police services that recognize the dignity and respect for Bloomington residents and guests.