A group of activists on Monday protested the Rochester Police Locust Club’s plan to use $90,000 of club funds to pay for 60 Rochester police officers to get training from Dr. Bill Lewinski.
Lewinski is the founder of the Force Science Institute, which bills itself as “a world-class team of physicians, psychologists, behavioral scientists, attorneys and other leading professionals.” The institute offers training that Lewinski claims teaches proper policing techniques for de-escalation and cues.
But the program, which critics say teaches officers to shoot first and ask questions later, is controversial. Lisa Fournier, editor for the American Journal of Psychology, referred to Lewinski’s work as pseudoscience, calling it invalid and unreliable, while the Justice Department referred to Lewinski’s studies as lacking in proper research methods.
Lewinski has also made a name for himself defending police officers in shooting cases. He has testified in more than 200 cases of police force.
This week’s Snap Poll asked readers whether Rochester police officers should receive training from Lewinski’s Force Science Institute. While a majority of people support the training, a plurality—29 percent—strongly oppose it.
More than 350 respondents participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Sept. 19 and 20.
How do you feel about the Force Science Institute training Rochester police officers?
Strongly support — 26%
Support — 26%
Oppose — 20%
Strongly oppose — 29%
Since the 1964 riots, Rochester has had significant racial tension. It’s one of the most segregated cities in the United States. Increasing the tension that already exists here by bringing in “shoot first” training for our police force (many of whom do not live in the city) is the wrong approach. We must learn to get along with one another. This approach is counter-productive. St. Louis has recently given us a lesson in how NOT to do it right. Lewinski believes that shooting an unarmed citizen can be considered “acting appropriately,” even when (as in St. Louis) forensic and video evidence directly contradicts the officer’s story. Lewinski has testified to grand juries, where his testimony can’t be challenged and has been a paid expert witness in many police trials. Rochester has long relied too heavily on bringing in outsiders to solve our problems, rather than working thing out ourselves. Now would be a good time to stop doing that.
—Gary Bogue, Rochester
I strongly support this training. That this group of anarchists can warrant media coverage in this community is a sad indication of the structural bias that exists today. What a bunch of knuckleheads!
—Jerry McCabe, Irondequoit
The mayor, city council, and all of the camera hungry so called church/community leaders that love to condemn the police for doing their jobs, should be sent to the training. Maybe just for a moment they might see the light. I doubt it though.
Don’t know much about the Force Science Institute, but if a lot of police forces are paying the freight for training, there must be something worthwhile. Additional training in current tactics to protect our citizens (no matter what color!) and themselves (under attack throughout the U.S.) should be worthwhile. Hate to say it, but if “Showing Up For Racial Justice”, “Rochester Black Rose Anarchist Foundation” and “Intersectional Anti-Facist Network” are all shouting against such training, I have to believe I’m for it!
—Art Elting, Palmyra
Frankly I think the money could be better spent teaching people that when confronted by a police officer to remain calm, polite, not be disrespectful, not be argumentative or confrontational and do what the officer says. And certainly don’t make any moves that could be considered reaching for a weapon. But I also believe that too many officers seem to get panicky and/or hot tempered too easily. It seems like reaching for their gun is their only choice. We need our police. They perform a great but sometimes dangerous service to our communities and they should be commended for what they do.
Given what the United States Department of Justice has said about this firm, they appear to not be the right vendor. Today, a Rochester police officer is frequently called into extreme mental health situations that have become law enforcement matters. We need to support efforts to teach our police methods to de-escalate a dangerous situation whenever possible. Any time a law officer has to seriously injure or kill someone, he or she bears the scars of that incident for the rest of his or her life. We owe these good people every bit of training to prevent such incidents for their sake and that of the whole community.
I would be opposed to training that appears controversial unless it can be proven to better protect and support the police department. How about spending the money to train our community on how to respect our police force? Train the community on things to do and things not do when you are engaging with the police. Have people understand the consequences and risks on not complying to the orders of a police officer. Get parents involved with the training and education of their children in this area. With this training we can prevent youth and police officers from being injured and killed. If you love your kids, this is the training needed.
Information Packaging Corp.
I can not imagine why the Rochester police would be getting this sort of training. A full explanation should be made immediately. On the surface, it reflects very poorly on the Locust Club and its members.
I find it very unlikely that a professional organization would spend $90K on a service without vetting the provider and feeling strongly that they are getting their money’s worth. In cases like this, I lean toward believing the professionals.
First of all, it is the Locust Club’s own money. They should be able to spend it as they choose. The police will still be subject to the department’s regulations. Those opposed are, no doubt leftists who can’t stand not being in control of everything anyone says or does. Even the Justice Dept. thing is probably an Obama legacy and that speaks for itself.
Why in the world would someone NOT want a police officer to learn how to read facial, voice, and body language cues? If someone is just nervous vs. angry, lying, etc. I would want to know that so that I could anticipate how to respond. Note that I said respond, not shoot first and ask questions later. Police officers are putting themselves at risk if they cannot anticipate the suspect’s potential intent. I would want to know if the person is dangerous or not by reading their body language. Perhaps the objectors are those who hate police anyway and would rather they be killed when pulling someone over or trying to make an arrest.
These officers will need training from both perspectives, and decide as an individual and an organization the best course of action. It is so easy to judge a situation after the fact, not in the heat of a dangerous moment that the officers face on a daily basis. That said, there are “bad” cops also and they need to be held responsible for their actions. I wish it could be so cut and dry as “support” or “oppose” but it just isnt.