5 Pueblo Police officers temporarily taken off the streets after training program inspection

5 Pueblo Police officers temporarily taken off the streets after training program inspection
Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 5:27 PM MDT
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PUEBLO, Colo. (KKTV) - The Pueblo Police Department says some of its officers are temporarily being taken off the streets after an inspection was made into one of the department’s training programs.

The Police Department sent out a press release Thursday explaining what happened.

According to the press release, on March 14th, the Colorado Police Officers Standards and Training (POST) inspected the Pueblo Police Department Academy Arrest Control Training program (ACT). The inspection found that the program was out of compliance beginning with Class 63, which graduated in August of 2021.

Pueblo PD says this will affect five officers. They’ll need test out of ACT or complete an additional two week course.

The Chief of Police Chris Noeller stated, ” I wish I could say this finding was wrong, but after our internal review, it was not only correct, but was the only finding that POST could make.”

According to Chief Noeller, there were concerns that the FBI Defensive Tactics curriculum was “too strike heavy.” The chief says there were also concerns with SB 217, which includes measures to enhance law enforcement integrity.

The Chief goes on to say, “ I gave guidance early in 2021 to instruct additional defensive tactic techniques to limit the issues related to punching people, especially in our current environment.”

He says the department is working on getting the ACT program up to compliance by providing officers with the skills to safely take people into custody without using “strikes” in most situations.

Pubelo PD says this will also delay the deployment of Class 64. They will also need to test out of ACT. However, Class 64 still graduated on Friday, March 25th.

Chief Noeller spoke to reporters after the graduation. He told me that he wanted to change the ACT program to move away from striking and towards jujitsu and muay thai leverage techniques.

“I promise you we are not teaching our officers crazy tactics that are unsafe that are going to cause further injury. The idea is to reduce injury to both our officers and our suspects.” said Noelller.

The Pueblo Police Academy is an FBI defense tactics academy. This means that their curriculum teaches recruits to punch non-compliant offenders with a closed fist when they refuse arrests.

Noeller tells me these methods are dangerous for officers and suspects. He says they also appear more violent when caught on camera.

When POST investigated the ACT program they discovered that the Pueblo Police Academy was not teaching the FBI curriculum and was forced to reprimand the department

“I told my training staff that I wanted to implement some of these techniques into our defensive tactics program. The idea being that it would help our community. That it would help the suspects receive fewer injuries. And that it would also help my officers and allow them to do their job. That’s where I made the mistake.”

There were injuries that occurred during this training. There were three injuries during the training of Class 63 who graduated in August 2021. There were two injuries in Class 64 which graduated today. One of those injuries was significant.

But Noeller maintains that the martial arts practices are safer than striking. He believes they will be accepted as best practices inn the future.

“The most common time we see officers striking somebody is when they are on their stomach and they have their hands underneath them. I’ve got a bad shoulder from trying to rip someone’s hand out from underneath them when I was a young officer on patrol. So it’s not safe for the officers and it’s very problematic to try and get a guy into custody when they are doing that.”

The Pueblo Police Department can continue to teach the techniques to its in-service officers as those trainings as not overseen by POST. The issue with POST arose because the techniques were being taught in the Police Academy.

As a result, the 5 officers who graduated as part of Class 63 and the six officers who graduated today as part of Class 64 will have to complete a two week training course before they can return to patrol. Those who do not complete the two week course will have the opportunity for a “test out” day, when experts are brought to Pueblo for a full day of training after which the recruits are certified.

Noeller says the Pueblo Police Department will work with POST to create a new training program within their parameters.

“We’re going to work with POST within their rules to try to get what’s called a hybrid program. So that we can have a program that takes the best part of the FBI defensive tactics and the best part of another technique, Gracie Street Survival is one of them, and combined them to where we are teaching our officers the best way to take people into custody which is safe for them, safe for our suspects, and I think it lives up to the ideals of what our community wants from our Police Department”

This is the first time in the 20 year history of the Pueblo Police Academy that it was found to be non-compliant with curriculum.

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