The Fort Worth Police Department is taking steps to give officers more training on use of force in everyday situations.
The new police training comes as a high profile 'use of force' case is in court this week in which an officer used questionable tactics in making the arrest of Jaqueline Craig. Video of her arrest went viral.
The case prompted Fort Worth police to bring in specialists for use of force training and de-escalation techniques for all officers.
All 1,600 Fort Worth police officers and dozens of Balch Springs officers have gone through the training to learn different options instead of using deadly force in situations they might come across while on the job.
“Officers don't come to work every day with the idea that we're going to kill someone,” said Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald.
Officers went through real-life scenarios and watched body camera video from other agencies. It trained officers on tactics like creating space between them and the threat or how to use verbal communication to de-escalate situations, especially with people who might have mental health issues.
“All we do is encourage officers to explore those other options, to take a step back and say, ‘How can I reevaluate the situation and possibly not have to engage in the use of force?’” Fitzgerald explained.
Balch Springs police officers went through similar training after the police shooting death of unarmed 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. Former officer Roy Oliver is charged with murder and aggravated assault for firing into a car full of teenagers as they drove away from a party.
Those behind the training program say it's about giving officers other options.
“There will be some situations that unfortunately there's not much of a choice,” said Chuck Wexler with the Police Executive Research Forum. “But when there is, the thinking is to get officers to slow down, use time and distance and have a plan B.”
Fort Worth police invited city leaders, members of the Race and Culture Task Force, and community activists and clergy like Rev. Kyev Tatum.
“This is not only needed, it's helpful. So we must do this,” Tatum said. “But at the end of the day, how those officers treat the citizens on the street regardless of their color, regardless of their class, regardless of their culture, will determine whether or not Fort Worth is instituting the right type of community policing.”
The Fort Worth police chief has also put policies in place that reflect the de-escalation techniques officers learned. He says he hopes to help other smaller departments train and form similar policies.