In his hometown of Janesville, House Speaker Paul Ryan, held a closed meeting to the public with police chiefs from around the country on the use-of-force and ways to defuse situations before they become violent.
Paul Ryan’s actions on working to improve police-community relations come only after five police officers were shot in Dallas last year. Ryan formed a bipartisan Congressional committee on ways to improve relations.
The Janesville Police Department made history last month by hiring their first African-American police officer. Nate Heffner started just before Christmas.
Sam Liebert, city council president and the first minority elected to the council, said he could relate to Heffner. Liebert told Channel 3000, “I don’t think this will drastically change anything, but I think it’s just good that there are people in the police department who now know what it feels like to perhaps be discriminated based on the color of their skin.”
Ryan hosted a meeting that was open to the media but closed to the public with six chiefs from Arizona, Louisiana, Florida, New Jersey and Vermont. The meeting focused on a training program from the Washington-based nonprofit Police Executive Research Forum aimed at giving officers ways to slow down threatening situations to avoid the use of force.
“We’ve witnessed — especially last year — how if we don’t get this right, communities will be destroyed, lives will be lost,” Ryan said during the meeting in Janesville, whose police department sent six officers to the training last month and plans to train all officers over the next three years.
PERF Executive Director Chuck Wexler said the techniques are particularly useful in situations where an unarmed individual is having a mental health crisis. He estimated that 30 to 40 deaths at the hands of police last year could have been prevented had the situations been handled differently.
For more on Ryan’s meeting, visit Madison.com.