Woman in charge of training police recruits calls for change

KING COUNTY, Wash. — Sue Rahr is the executive director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission in Burien. She is in charge of training all officers and deputies in the state. The Washington State Patrol trains its own troopers.

As thousands fill the streets demanding change, she is in a position to make change.

Rahr is seizing the opportunity to educate recruits about racial bias in policing, and pushing to change police culture that dates back decades.

She says they're further developing curriculum to teach recruits about black history, civil rights, and the history of race in policing.

Recruits aren't the only ones who need this education. Rahr says officers and police leadership need courses on racial bias too. She says many of them were trained decades ago, and to change police culture, they need to be on board too.

"We really are trying to train recruits how to use humanness as a way of managing and interacting with people. We have to overcome the stereotype that you have to be tough and 'soldier-like' to be safe," said Rahr.

She's excited about a program called Active Bystandership.

"We have been training police officers they have an obligation to intervene if they see a partner doing something inappropriate or unsafe, "said Rahr. She wants to take it even further and bring a program from Georgetown Law's Innovative Policing Initiative to the Burien Criminal Justice Training Center.

"We're trying to set Washington up to be a full immersion pilot where we train this very active bystandership at the academy and will provide all the tools for local police departments to implement some polices and protocols that support very active bystandership by fellow officers."

She says the pandemic has forced innovation, including training recruits through cell phone videos. She wants to take it statewide so every officer would have an app on their phones, so they can receive training videos and updates quickly and effectively.

Rahr says recruits are using an app that teaches them to recognize what’s going on in the subconscious part of the brain. According to Rahr, it teaches the brain what is actually a physical threat and filters out biases you have based on previous experiences. She says it improves officers’ safety and reduces the need to use deadly force.