What We Learned in Platteville: Part I of 5

[The next five posts will attempt to summarize the first Midwest Conference on 21st Century Policing. It was held at the University of Wisconsin – Platteville on October 7th, 2015. The following are abbreviated notes and not verbatim which I received from Kris Knight of Madison a member of MOSES (www.mosesmadison.org). She was a community member at the conference which brought together approximately 100 police and community leaders of equal number — a feat in and of itself!]

The First Midwest Conference on 21st Century Policing

Chancellor Dennis J. Shields, UW-Platteville.
Chancellor Dennis J. Shields, UW-Platteville.



Dr. Staci Strobl, Chair, Department of Criminal Justice, UW-Platteville.
Dr. Staci Strobl, Chair, Department of Criminal Justice, UW-Platteville.





Prof. Nino Amato, UW-Platteville, Criminal Justice Department
Prof. Nino Amato, UW-Platteville, Criminal Justice DepartmentPresident of Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups and teaches in the UW-Platteville criminal justice program.President of Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups and teaches in the UW-Platteville criminal justice program.





Moderator: Prof. Anthony “Nino” Amato, President of Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups and teaches in the UW-Platteville criminal justice program.

“If there was ever an opportunity to advance, it is now; change is on the way. The Presidential Task Force Report reinforcement of founding mothers and fathers in Exec. Summary; trust is essential in our communities; police expected to do a hell of a lot more than before; “just one more thing on your plate”; figure out how to move forward, collaborate and educate when push comes to shove….we have to get resources and prioritize those resources.”


IMG_0019Professor Emeritus Herman Goldstein, UW Madison Law School: Introduction of Sue Rahr.

“We are constantly being involved in crisis; now one of the most challenging crises that we’ve confronted; involves not only enormous tensions of communities, issues relating to use of force and especially relationships with black offenders in our communities; great deal of work; extraordinarily difficult.

“Sue Rahr served with King County Sheriff’s Department since ‘79; worked for 25 years in various positions. She was selected to replace sheriff when he stepped down. In that capacity had responsibility to provide supervision to more than 1000 employees and $715M budget; served traditional responsibilities of sheriffs, oversaw contracts, etc.

“There are many assets in having a community elect Susan Rahr; that is, directly elected by citizens living in her community, accountable, and having connections with that community without ambiguity or confusion in trying to achieve accountability between local police officials and community. Sue has made the most of it; lesson to be learned in that; working in different arrangements; so it behooves each of us to try to work through a career like Susan has done in order to achieve relationship with community.

“We have people within our police departments who have a reservoir of many talents/skills and we fail to take advantage of it; one of objectives we ought to have is to make use of those variegated talents and embody results of that expertise into advances that we can make within our organizations; we have responsibility to give license and freedom to our employees so we can unleash that enormous reservoir of talent; the talent for critical thinking and analysis.

“This perspective resulted in Sue examining all aspects of the sheriff’s office, challenging the organization at each and every stage; working toward improvement in every way at each level; one was program called LEED: ‘Listen and Explain with Equity and Dignity,’ a program in which officers were trained to take time to listen, lead, explain what’s going to happen, explain how and when it’s going to happen, and leave with the community members’ dignity intact; it was one of her best initiatives.

“In 2012, Sue was appointed Director of Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. She is responsible for training of ALL police in the state; it is a model described in ‘Moving From Warriors to Guardians;’ moving away from the military boot camp model toward critical thinking and decision making; less military and much more humanity; serves to change something that a lot of us have not had ability or resources to challenge. The way in which officers are treated and treat each other ultimately relates to how they relate to the public.

“At every opportunity she has emphasized the meaning of the Constitution of the U.S. and its relevance to police; in her efforts in Washington state and prior to that within county government. There is a high importance in this most unique aspect of policing, We are a democracy and in the democracy we place enormous value and strength in authority; and yet profound authority is delegated to the lowest employee (police officer or deputy sheriff) and therefore we have to get that person to understand the awesome responsibility of carrying out that task. She made this the theme of her training program; police are to be guardians of democracy; many examples in history where this went wrong in our past; did not emphasize importance of this.

“Ultimately, the quality of our democracy is heavily dependent on quality of our police and that policing should be a profession of the highest calling. In December, 2014, she was appointed to the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Sue Rahr, Director of Police Training, State of Washington.
Sue Rahr, Director of Police Training, State of Washington.

SUSAN RAHR: “Implementing the Task Force Recommendations Applicable to Local Government.”

“The problem started long before Ferguson; this isn’t ‘guardian bullshit’ — lots of misunderstanding about this. Training is to be just as tough as the old warrior way, but to use their power with more discretion; communicate instead of just going hands-on.


“Why we decided to make changes:

  •    Create more effective learning environment.
  •    Develop critical thinking and decision-making skiills.
  •    Instill values that lead to ethical self-regulation in the use of power.
  •    Improve public trust.

“Contrary to what one might think, this is actually about increasing officer safety

“I have been asked by my students, why ‘Guardians’?; Why did you feel had to label it? My 16 year old son said to me, ‘Mom, you really need to read Plato’ to understand the concept of a guardian;

In a republic that honors the core ideals of democracy, the greatest amount of power is given to those called the Guardians. Only those with the most impeccable character are given the responsibility of protecting the democracy — Plato.

“It is important to look at higher purpose; ‘get home each day alive’ used to be prominent message; serving higher purpose does have greater job satisfaction and retention; the Millennials being hired want to do something that matters. This is a good time to be focusing on meaning; these young officers will be more likely to self-regulate behavior; a supervisor sees them only1% of the time; best way to not want to let themselves down is to stress meaning in their lives; and it better matches the overall mission of policing.

“Otherwise, policing starts to feel like job instead of a calling, which, within context of higher purpose, it truly is.

“Developing a more effective learning environment. Police training used to be much like Marine boot camp, but then it even became bad imitation of that style of training; there are reasons why Marines are trained the way they are. About 25% of our recruits now in academy are military veterans. One class president at academy is a decorated military hero; so we thought before we start making changes we should sit down with him. We went through curriculum; he listened and then said, ‘I want to be a guardian; I’m tired of being a warrior. He has been one of our most influential leaders; ‘If I wanted to be a warrior,’ he says, ‘I would have stayed in the military.’

“The impact of fear and humiliation. When you’re under constant fear and stress, it is a hard way to retain information and build confidence. This is proven to be true; but we’re not talking about all of one or the other.

“Better decision-making. You make decisions ALL the time; all about being confident; bullying doesn’t help. If cops are not confident and are overcompensating, the bad guys can sniff that out making him or her less safe.

“Compliance based on fear breeds resentment. This occurs in both cops and in community members. When cops are trained and used to looking for something wrong from the beginning, they become less effective in the community.

“Public Trust: The attitude now is all about the media; people care about justice and how they’re treated; this feeling is equal with the importance of the so-called “crime rate.”


“Instead of standing and saluting (bracing protocol), when someone walks by, instead, stop, make eye contact, speak to/greet them. This one act changed the whole atmosphere in the academy for the better. We have 150-200 recruits on campus at any one given time. Those who experienced both styles said, “We can’t believe how different it feels around here!”

“I want to hear ideas about how to change; how to improve; we changed how we share training materials. Instructors can learn as much from the recruits. ‘Tune Up Day’ used to be to crush the spirits of our recruits by instilling fear and letting them know what scum they are.

“A couple of our instructors really got off on crushing young recruits. It wasn’t right. We stopped doing that. Instead, we raised their awareness level of how much they need to learn; Training officers went from being intimidators to being role models — how to behave in community. We say our training officers are the kind of officer you need to be.

“We began by first emphasizing scholarship; there is more balance now; a reading list; rewards; e.g. We changed symbols and artifacts; removed the trophy case and put up a mural of the Constitution.

“I gave out pocket Constitutions on their first day. My entire career as a cop looked to the Constitution. Police training often misses the boat here; the Constitution is our mission statement.

“After all, a police officer has more power than President or Chief Justice of Supreme Court when it comes to power over a citizen’s daily life. During one exercise, I had recruits think silently about friends they lost defending the Constitution at home and abroad. I asked, ‘How willing are you going to be to violate that Constitution?’ It was very effective.

“Posters. Almost everything on them is about survival; and police training used to be predicated on the idea that everyone out there was trying to kill you. What is posted on the wall ought to be what you believe are your values.

“Training scenarios. They always ended with shooting someone or wrestling someone to ground. We changed to training scenarios that are designed to test critical thinking, decision making, and accurate assessment of behavior. Physical skills are tested in the gym.


“Want them to know they can work thru pain without killing someone e.g. pepper sprayed in face; we need recruits to know how they are going to react under stress. Rules of conduct still upheld. Our goal is always to develop confident police officer

“We integrate verbal and physical defensive tactics. We now have a much more concentrated emphasis on communication.

“SIRT pistols (see http://www.nextleveltraining.com/products/sirt-training-pistol) used to enhance firearms training, plus this training more integrated with de-escalation tactics, and focus on combat shooting in lieu of target shooting.

“Every morning flag ceremony at academy plus inspection.

“’Culture eats training for lunch.’ We had to change the culture of policing to reinforce our training.

“It’s not guardians instead of warriors, we have NOT abandoned the warrior; the warrior is only ONE dimension of the guardian.

“We are one year into 5 year study on the effects of these changes. Seattle 2015 — “So the station, so the street” There is a growing national momentum for this; to instill these changes for the long term

“The problem is not crime control, it is the attitude of our police. In many places we have destroyed the autoimmune system in our communities in order to kill the tumor!

“We need to find ways to reward developing and maintaining community trust.”

Dr. Frank King, UW-Platteville
Dr. Frank King, UW-Platteville

Responder: Dr. Frank King, Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies, UW-Platteville

“My areas of research have been Hip Hop pedagogy, prison reform, and juvenile rehabilitation

“The effects of the war on drugs. The Justice Dept. is going to release up to 6000 inmates; the war on drugs has been a systematic failure since its inception; a reinforcement of criminality in many communities and reinforced thru media – the image of drugs plaguing our society, the criminality and violence traditionally define that connection; communities are being destroyed; it puts police on the spot; there’s that connection; a military mindset and how to de-escalate; politicians enforce and encourage the ‘war.’ In the past, you had to be tough on crime; don’t have that anymore; don’t see that; Even Rand Paul says the war on drugs has been a failure; some blowback from this; even people from conservative areas realizing how atrocious it was; popular culture told us we wanted to see cops bust down the doors of drug dealers; a very militaristic idea; really glad that notion of military mindset starting to subside; will hopefully lead to better relations between communities and their police who have been in constant conflict for too long a period of time.”

The Q&A Period:

Rahr: “Making the shift: focusing on leadership training; Blue Courage training program (See www.bluecourage.com) ; a blueprint for developing trust; a handbook for chiefs and sheriffs; we’re careful not to say you all need to change; already have commitment for over $2M as private donation; an issue when police don’t live in community; one way is to integrate them into the schools; always looking for officers to relate in non-enforcement way; fund opportunities for officers to engage; for the most part, it is not realistic to expect police will all live where they work. This often does occur in small agencies where officers live in the community and are already integrated into it.”

King: “Police need to be seen as insider, not outsider and enemy; they have to know who the people are in the communities and care for them; it is really important for them to listen to community, really listen.”

“What is being done to maximize police officers’ well being? Rahr: The bulk of Blue Courage training program, for example, is to keep yourself mentally and physically fit. Sleep deprivation by is a huge issue in policing; police have to dramatically change staffing plan.”


[Note: For more on Director Rahr’s philosophy see: http://crosscut.com/2015/04/can-sue-rahr-reinvent-policing/. For my “Top 14 Recommendations” of the President’s Task Force click HERE. For a copy of the Task Force Report, click HERE. ]

  • There will be a total of five posts on this site from the Platteville Conference. To make sure you don’t miss any of them, check “Follow this Blog” on the sidebar to the right of this post. Stay tuned!



  1. Good to hear about Ms. Rahr throwing the Constitution as part of the police training and asking the recruits about whether they would violate the Constitution considering the fact that many people had died trying to protect it. Cops need to have a more in-depth history of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights even if they are college educated.


  2. Nice summary and nice work. Would add a usability component of this system, namely the citizen explicitly. How is the citizen impacted by police? You and others appear to walk around this. And I see no reference to the history of the police, ala http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17520/police_unions_racist and http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17505/police_and_poor_people , for example.

    Yet consider, how about wrongful convictions? In a linear progression of a project with sick objectives, police are the inception point of wrongful convictions (usually tunnel vision or some other half-assed investigation), prosecutors take the ball and follow along like good solders, and can often get jurors to convict, (irrespective of the evidence at trial in a perfect living example of post- WW II ‘legitimate authority’ literature), and judges will affirm verdict irrespective of evidence. Have you ever known a police detective involved in a wrongful conviction to – on his own – say ‘wait a moment, I screwed up; this guy should not have been arrested and should not have been charged’? I ask not because I wonder if your efforts, (admirable as they are), are informed by history and the institutional drive for convictions, period.

    I would ask for your comment on the 1994 Penny Brummer investigation (such as it was); the arrest, prosecution and conviction and life sentence of a clearly innocent woman. She was arrested in April 1994, months after your retirement, by veteran Madison Police detectives who served under your watch who latched onto a theory about lesbians, deceived Penny Brummer and arrested her with no evidence, just a retrograde conception of what a lesbian is. Are you willing to stand by this arrest? Are you willing to call out the Madison Police and say publicly, Penny Brummer should never have been arrested, and would not be if she were not a lesbian. I contacted Cap. Maples (ret) and she has not responded. A nice summary of the case is at http://isthmus.com/opinion/opinion/penny-brummer-wrongful-conviction/ and http://whokilledsarah.com/ . An innocent sits in prison for life, are you willing to spare two minutes for intellectually honest comment? Or is this case just another ‘not my problem?’


    1. You bring up some challenging points. I am not conversant on the Brummer case and reading Bill Lueder’s article makes me somewhat concerned. As to admission of errors — I know of at least one case in which a senior detective commander on the MPD had a change of mind when doing a review the “Patty” case. She was not able to convince her colleagues and has since retired. I am not in a position to review the Brummer case and I am sure there are others who will do so. My focus today and where I spend my time and effort is police and their improvement, their use of deadly force, the practice of unconditional respect, and working closely with those whom they serve. This case, of course, is everyone’s problem and I am a little more confident seeing that Bill Lueder’s is aware of it. Seeing the MPD has a significant number of gay females, I would be surprised that their is an anti-Lesbian attitude within the ranks. But I could be wrong. Thanks for calling this to my attention. I am now aware of the issue. As you know, it takes the legal system to undo an error and there is little that non-lawyers can do — that’s why we have organizations like the Innocence Project and Bryan Stevenson (“Just Mercy”) thankfully finding and working to correct errors within the system.


  3. Is there anything at the conference about the police taking white collar, corporate crime seriously like they do with street crime even if it means that they face the wrath of wealthy people and corporations?


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