Janesville police officers will be learning a new technique for firing their Tasers, designed to keep them from doing what an officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, did on April 11 with tragic consequences.
Police Chief Dave Moore said he developed the idea after watching the veteran Brooklyn Center officer’s body-camera video, which showed her firing her gun and killing Daunte Wright.
It’s clear from the video that officer Kim Potter believed she was firing her Taser, Moore said. Potter is heard on the video threatening to use her Taser, and then she said what police everywhere are trained to say to warn those around her, “Taser! Taser! Taser!”
Then she says, “Holy s---, I just shot him.”
“At times, our mind and body convince us of things that are not true,” Moore said Monday.
Moore has experienced that himself, not in policing but in private flying lessons.
He described a flight training exercise in which he wore blinding goggles that kept him from seeing anything while his instructor guided the plane into steep turns at varying speeds.
With the student disoriented, the instructor put the plane into a dive, allowed Moore to see only his instruments and told him to get the plane flying level.
“What my body felt and believed was significantly different than what the instruments were saying,” Moore said. “This was an overwhelming drive to believe your body and not the instruments, and if I would have trusted what my body was telling me, we would’ve crashed.”
That kind of training is standard in the airline industry, Moore said. Pilots train to look at the instruments and say out loud what the instruments are saying, such as “three in the green” to acknowledge three lights that indicate landing gear is down.
Based on this idea, police are working on a simple system that Moore believes will be effective: Every time they pull the Taser from its holster, they look at it and acknowledge what they see before firing.
The acknowledgment phrase has not been worked out, but it might be as simple as “yellow,” corresponding to the Taser’s predominant color, said Sgt. Rob Perkins, who trains others in arrests, defensive tactics and Taser use.
That call-out would be followed by the “Taser! Taser! Taser!” warning.
Perkins is developing training in which Tasers will have a colored sticker on the top of the gun that trainees will be required to see and acknowledge. The stickers won’t be there when officers use them at work, but some kind of verbal call-out will be developed.
The training will be incorporated into monthly training sessions. Those sessions will include “hood drills,” in which the trainee’s head is covered and then the hood is pulled off to reveal situations the trainee must react to, Perkins said.
Repeated drills will make the Taser-check procedure something that is done quickly, much like professional athletes’ training, Perkins said, “So as you go forward in a faster-paced scenario or faster-paced environment, you’re going to fall back on your training.”
Moore said known incidents of officers mistaking their guns for Tasers are rare. One author has counted 18 incidents since 2001, but Moore believes it has happened many other times.
Moore said Potter is likely going to prison for her mistake. He noted four other officers who were sent to prison for similar mistakes.
“So that causes us to really take a close look at what we’re training our officers, making sure we’re doing all that we can to make sure this mistake doesn’t happen here,” Moore said.
Some have questioned how an officer could mistake a gun for a Taser. Moore agreed guns are heavier, much different in color and feel different in the hand, “but our bodies aren’t honest with us, our hands aren’t honest with us, our mind is not honest when we’re under stress and we believe something else is occurring.”
Moore said the new Taser training should start showing up in Janesville police training in May.
Moore noted his department often reviews national incidents and makes changes based on lessons learned elsewhere. In the wake of deaths at police hands last year, Janesville police changed their policies on choke holds and no-knock warrants.
Georgia Rajen Bovre
Jeffery R. Didelot
Judith Ann (Glime) Lemirande
Glenn L. Maves
Joanne E. (McCollough) Pingel
Lillian C. Schultz
Pamela J. Skildum
Lyle M. Wundrow
Local school districts will receive tens of millions of dollars to help them with efforts to get students back on track after the year of the pandemic.
Janesville is projected to receive more than $27 million in federal aid, according to a state Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis.
The money is allocated based on federals estimates of family income, so while Janesville gets more than $2,915 per student, Milton gets $892 per student.
The figures are not final. Milton schools Superintendent Rich Dahman noted some aid will depend on how long students learned in classrooms in the past year, a requirement imposed by the state Legislature, and those figures have not yet been finalized.
Janesville school officials are waiting for more specific rules on how they can use the money before making decisions, said district spokesman Patrick Gasper in an email.
While they wait, district officials are discussing options and asking principals for their input, Gasper wrote.
The money is intended to help schools help their students overcome learning delays.
Early studies have pointed to delays in children’s progress in learning to read, with minority children showing the worst effects, for example.
Most of the money is coming through three pieces of legislation passed over the past year called Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, known widely in school circles as ESSER I, II and III.
The money must help schools pay costs “arising from the coronavirus pandemic, including reopening schools safely, sustaining their safe operation and addressing students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs resulting from the pandemic,” according to a U.S. Department of Education memo that focused on ESSER III.
Part of the ESSER III funding targets students who have suffered disproportionately from the pandemic, including children living in poverty, those from racial or ethnic minorities and those who have disabilities, among others.
Milton used its ESSER I money for COVID-19 prevention, such as masks, shields, disinfectant and offering school lunches even when students were staying home to learn.
As for the rest of the money, principals are developing ideas with staff based on school-achievement data, Dahman said, and decisions on those ideas will be made in coming weeks.
For sure, summer school will include offerings to “jump-start learning” when students return in the fall, Dahman said.
Money might also be used to test school air quality and make improvements if testing shows problems, Dahman said.
Most of the money will be used to meet students’ social, academic and emotional needs arising from the pandemic,” Dahman said.
Some have suggested the pandemic has led to mental-health problems that students will bring with them to school next fall.
“A major focus of ours is going to be both helping students be ready for the start of the school year and also ensuring we have a strong instructional focus ready for students when they come back in fall,” Dahman said.
The money might even be used for short-term hires who would help students adjust, Dahman said.
The Janesville district “will continue to find ways to use all available funding to deliver on our promises—that students graduate well prepared for college, career, and life—and certainly reading proficiency/literacy are major components of that,” Gasper wrote.
The money can’t be used to lower the tax levy and must supplement the budget, not take the place of local funding of annually recurring costs, Gasper noted.
“We intend to use the funds emphasizing one-time costs that will have a positive impact student achievement/engagement/success,” Gasper wrote.
“Although there may appear to be a wide range of allowable expenses, each expense must be approved via an application to spend that is submitted to the DPI (state Department of Public Instruction).”
“Addressing learning loss due to the pandemic is a top priority,” Gasper wrote, but he said determining how to do that will take time.