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Cadets in Utah Police Academy may receive additional “anti-bias” training

Cadets in the Utah police academy will soon receive additional training about how to effectively defuse a situation with their hands, rather than using a weapon. (File photo: Dan Rascon, KSL TV)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Cadets in the Utah police academy may soon receive some additional training. A lot of the focus is on teaching future cops how to effectively defuse a situation with their hands, rather than using a weapon.

Police Academy calls for more training

On Wednesday, Major Scott Stephenson, director of the academy, got the temporary green light to implement the training changes. Authority to implement the expanded curriculum comes from the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council.

Those pursuing a career as a full-time police officer or sheriffs’ deputy must undergo 15 weeks of training. According to Major Stephenson, during that time cadets still need to receive extra practice fighting with their hands. He’s pushing for an additional 18 hours of training be devoted to that practice.

“You’re seeing a lot of videos where officers just panic,” he explains. “They don’t feel comfortable using their hands and so they go right for the tool belt.”

“Tool belt” is a reference to the weapons that police officers have available at their waist.

He says the purpose of this additional training is to create a sort of “muscle memory” for future cops. The idea is to have them comfortable with hand-to-hand situations, so their weapons truly become a last resort.

History lesson

Another component to the expanded training will be a focus on “implicit bias.” Right now, cadets only receive about one hour of training on that topic. Major Stephenson is hoping to have that expanded to a 12-hour unit.

The way you treat somebody in the course of doing your job is vital. – Major Scott Stephenson.

The Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council will need to vote again to approve the new hours. The vote will take place once Major Stephenson is able to provide more specifics about the training.