Warriors to Guardians: Changing Law Enforcement Training

Nov 21, 2016

The shooting in Ferguson, Missouri and the unrest that followed sparked a vigorous debate in the country about the role of law enforcement.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and producer Emily Woodbury visit the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) at Camp Dodge in Johnston to find out how training is changing due to the national debate over the role of law enforcement.

ILEA students in a firearms course at the academy's shooting range.
Credit Ben Kieffer

ILEA director Judy Bradshaw says that Iowa's new approach to training, called "Blue Courage," teaches officers to think of themselves more as guardians than as warriors. She says it can be just as important to teach officers about decision making and judgment as it is to teach them skills like tactical training, hand-to-hand combat, and firearms training.

"There are tactics to be able to verbally de-escalate a situation," says Bradshaw, referring to what she calls verbal judo. "Blue Courage ... is focused on officer discretion and taking a little bit more time to assess the situation."

In addition to talking with Bradshaw, Kieffer also interviews assistant director Kim Wadding, ILEA trainers, and officer hopefuls at the academy. Wadding says that most officers come into the job wanting to do some good in their community, and Blue Courage helps to foster that way of thinking.

"The most valuable tool that a police officer carries with them is empathy--understanding a situation through the eyes of others," he says.