Our Opinion: Local police commended for skill and bravery
In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, we would like to express our gratitude to the Brattleboro Police Department for once again exhibiting the quality training and true professionalism of its officers.
Too often we hear the more sensational stories of police using excessive or even deadly force that results in someone's serious injury or death, followed by renewed protests over police brutality. But here in Brattleboro, police officers are trained to deescalate a volatile situation rather than make it worse.
"BPD spends many hours every year training its officers to deescalate situations through conversation and negotiation," Capt. Mark Carignan told the Reformer. "This training includes classroom settings as well as real-world scenario based training. Officers are taught to slow down situations and create distance in order to allow them to use tools other than force or weapons."
That training was put to the test earlier this month when police received a report of a man blocking traffic on Putney Road near the roundabout. Multiple callers reported the man was jumping on cars and had smashed someone's windshield. Eyewitness video widely shared on social media shows the suspect immediately attacking the first officer to arrive on scene.
"It was a straight-up street fight," said Carignan.
Some people on social media questioned why none of the bystanders offered to step in and help the officer, who was clearly outsized by the suspect. We submit that interference by an untrained civilian most likely would have made the situation worse. And it would have made the officer's job even harder because then he would have multiple people to worry about instead of just the one.
As seen in the video, the officer used his extensive training to deescalate the situation by talking and keeping at least an arm's length between himself and the suspect, while also guiding the suspect away from all the bystanders on the busy road. Carignan said the idea behind this approach is to create space and distance to both foster more respect of personal space and allow time for a more measured response. This is especially important if someone is having a mental health issue.
"Unfortunately in this case (the) exceptionally violent behavior rendered those efforts ineffective," Carignan explained. "The suspect literally chased our officer down the street in an effort to hurt him."
The officer used his Taser, but that had little effect.
"People don't generally jump right back up after being tased," Carignan said. "That was very concerning for the officer."
He said the suspect attacked the officer again, charging him and repeatedly throwing punches at his head. But not once did the officer pull his gun. Instead, he continued with the arms-length deescalation techniques, strategically stalling for time until more help could arrive.
Once a second officer arrived on scene, the two worked together to take the suspect to the ground and handcuff him.
"Faced with repeated assaults the officers properly used force to quickly get the man under control," Carignan said. "They should be commended for their skill and bravery."
We agree. Although some force proved necessary in the end, our main takeaway from this incident was that the officers did not use excessive force and did now allow the situation to spiral out of control.
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