By Daphne Ramsey
The Syracuse Police Department held its first training for city residents recently, in order to teach civilians police tactics, and to discuss recent incidents that have involved police use of deadly force.
According to SPD officials, the purpose of the training was to create awareness for communities who may not be aware of the ways incidents with police can escalate to the use of deadly force.
Approximately 400 people applied to participate in the three-day training officers held at 511 S. State St. last week.
“Police officers must make a decision regarding whether there is imminent danger to officers, and the public at large,” Detective Mark Rusin, the officer responsible for officer-involved shootings in the department, stated. “They do not have enough time to discern whether or not a cell phone is a gun, if they are not within close eye range to the subject. …All suspects are a threat.”
Rusin led the training, which he began by showing participants videos of officer-involved shootings; one of which showed a black male who had been shot by officers in Shreveport, Connecticut, after holding up a cell phone the officers mistook for a gun.
“Weather, and time of day or night all factor into visibility for anyone,” Rusin stated.
Another video showed three to four officers shooting a black male multiple times in the back, as he attempted to flee from police.
Following the presentation, one participant asked why more than one officer had begun shooting at the suspect as he was attempting to flee.
“Why would other officers continue to shoot, if another officer clearly has begun to shoot a subject?’ she asked.
“It’s the same situation where two concerned parents are together, and there is danger subjected to their child,” Rusin said. “Each parent will respond to protect their child. Police officers are trained to be assured they have back up from fellow officers in danger, in any situation.”
Rusin said SPD officers are responsible for determining the level of force that is appropriate for each encounter they have with suspects.
And, thus far, he said officers have successfully proven their ability to assess the level of force needed in every situation.
However, according to Rusin, officers typically never feel good about using deadly force, in any case.
“Whenever I have to notify an officer someone has died in an officer-related shooting, the officers who find out someone died are affected, and they express empathy,” he stated.
Following the presentation, Rusin asked participants if they agreed with police that the community needed officers to ensure the public’s safety.
Some participants agreed, and some didn’t respond, before attendees moved on to various other aspects of the training.
Although several community members who attended the event initially said they’d felt the need for better dialogue and police/community relations for several years, at the end of the training, SPD Chief Frank Fowler said he thought the participants had been receptive to the training.
“They’re understanding the laws that are in place, and why the laws set the precedent for the officers’ actions,” he stated. “These trainings will allow the community to better understand the challenge of the job when officers are engaging with individuals who do not want to comply with the law. I hope the individuals who signed up to participate in this training who are from different walks of life and careers, such as real estate, the U.S. Army, the city school district, OGs Against Violence, and residents, and business owners, will go back to the community, and share the information and procedures police officers must adhere to while patrolling, and working with people in the community.”