Chief's Letter: Community Training

February 8, 2023

To our Community, 

With the recent horrific death of Mr. Tyre Nichols because of the actions of five former Memphis, TN police officers, some of our community members have understandably asked questions about the Fayetteville Police Department's (FPD) tactics and training. After Mr. George Floyd's tragic death in 2020, I responded to this same inquiry by highlighting several aspects of our department such as training, policies use of force standards, body worn cameras, community outreach, complaint process and our accreditation program. I would like to reassure our residents that FPD continues to uphold the same standards I spoke of in 2020. We instill a culture and expectation that all Fayetteville Police Department employees are servant leaders who are professional, patient, compassionate and dedicated to treating all persons with equality and respect. 

The use of force is a critical issue for both the FPD and the community we serve. Unfortunately, there are times when our officers must use force to ensure the safety of our citizens or ourselves, and such actions must be justifiable within the law, policy and training guidelines. I am committed to ensuring that FPD officers respond to situations with the appropriate level of force, and I also believe critical information about use of force situations must be transparent to our community. Our police officers use tremendous judgment and restraint in determining when force may be necessary, beginning with officer presence, verbal commands and de-escalation techniques before any actual physical force is engaged. 

FPD policy requires each use of force incident to be documented. This includes any instance where a suspect is struck, injured, claims to be injured, is placed or held in a prone position or when an officer points a weapon at anyone. In 2022, my officers had 84,112 citizen encounters as a result of a call for service (49,067) or self-initiated activity (35,045). Some level of force was used by my officers in 144 (0.17%) of these encounters. 

Use of force documents are carefully reviewed by the officer's sergeant, lieutenant and captain. Photographs of any injury and recordings from body-worn cameras and digital mobile video are reviewed. These documents are also forwarded to the Administrative Lieutenant and stored and analyzed in the department's Early Warning System. The Administrative Lieutenant completes a use of force analysis each year and makes that analysis available to the public. Use of force trends, training issues and any potential problems are identified and included in our annual department-wide training program. 

Misuse of force is understandably disturbing, and all officer-involved shootings and complaints of misconduct are investigated thoroughly through our Office of Professional Standards (OPS). I hold my officers accountable for any misconduct. However, I also vigorously defend and support my officers when their use of force is justified to protect themselves and our residents. 

After George Floyd's death, we received several inquiries about our police operations as they relate to the #8cantwait campaign. As outlined throughout this letter, you will find that FPD has long enacted and operated under the recommendations of 8 Can't Wait, which includes policies banning chokeholds and strangleholds, requirements for de-escalation and duty to intervene, prohibiting shooting at moving vehicles and more. All FPD policies can be found here

The Fayetteville Police Department is committed to policing through progressive thinking. In December of 2014, Former President Obama launched the Task Force on 21st Century Policing to understand challenges to policing and help communities identify ways to improve law enforcement and community engagement. The Task Force recommended departments use data and technology to build community trust. The Police Data Initiative was mobilized to accelerate open data transparency and analysis to increase community trust. FPD provides this data on our website in the open data format recommended by the Police Data Initiative, available here. We also update our calls for service, crime and arrest statistics weekly, available here. 

In 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) created the National Use of Force Data Collection, in partnership with law enforcement agencies to provide nationwide statistics on law enforcement use of force incidents. The FBI began collecting data from law enforcement agencies beginning in 2019, and the FPD participates in this initiative. 

In 2017, all FPD officers were equipped with body-worn cameras (BWC). Our BWC contract refreshes our vendor's camera equipment every two and a half years, providing the most new and up-to-date product they offer. Our BWC policy requires activation of the body-worn camera, when possible, to record all contacts with citizens in the performance of official duties. These cameras are set to automatically record anytime an officer activates their vehicle's emergency equipment (lights or siren), when the rear door of a patrol vehicle is opened, when a patrol vehicle reaches 80mph, when an officer turns on a Taser, when an officer removes a weapon from its holster or when an officer removes a long gun from its mount. 

The use of BWC is expected to promote officer safety, strengthen police accountability, create greater operational transparency and promote trust, provide for more effective prosecution and reduce complaints against officers. BWC footage is a useful tool in providing clarity about police interactions, and it is often used for training. However, camera footage cannot always provide all the information needed to make a balanced and comprehensive determination about police activity. Videos are just part of a thorough investigation, and the footage often does not tell the entire story. These videos are audited quarterly by supervisors. 

Every FPD marked patrol vehicle is also equipped with a Digital Mobile Video Recorder (DMVR) to capture the events taking place in front of the police vehicle and in the rear seat. This video system has automated activation features similar to the BWC. 

FPD strives to recruit, hire and train the highest quality applicants. The applicant testing process involves written testing, physical fitness testing, multiple interviews, a comprehensive background investigation, medical and psychological evaluation and drug screening. New recruits participate in 4-6 weeks of in-house training designed to prepare them for the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy (ALETA). Recruits are then scheduled to attend ALETA for 13 weeks of both hands-on and classroom instruction, designed to prepare them for day-to-day work as patrol officers. After academy training, FPD recruits take part in a structured 18-week field training program. During field training, new officers are evaluated daily on performance for general appearance, attitude, customer service, job performance, professionalism and knowledge. Trainees are also rated daily on driving, report writing, their decision making under both routine and stressful situations, investigative skills, interview and interrogation skills, self-initiated field activity, officer safety, ability to control conflict, problem solving and decision making, radio usage procedures, knowledge of department policies and procedures, criminal statutes, city and county ordinances, traffic codes and criminal procedure. 

In March 2013, FPD became an accredited police department through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), which requires FPD to meet approximately 151 standards to improve our level of service and accountability. Every year, CALEA requires FPD to submit annual reports in areas such as bias-based complaints, bias-based training, recruitment and use of force. One of CALEA's requirements was for FPD to rename our "Racial Profiling Prohibited" policy to "Bias Based Policing" to be more inclusive of our diverse community. We continually monitor traffic stop and arrest statistics to ensure we are not disproportionately stopping, ticketing and arresting any race or gender. 

FPD is constantly developing best policies, practices and training for our officers while emphasizing concepts of de-escalation, crisis intervention and utilization of resources that minimize the use of force. Our awards from CALEA and the Arkansas Law Enforcement Accreditation Program (ALEAP) verify our history in developing sound use of force policies and general orders. These CALEA and ALEAP awards also show our dedication to use of force related training, and the documentation of our training and use of force statistics. Here is an overview of the types of use of force training our officers receive: 

  • Read and understand FPD Use of Force policy.
  • 40-hour training on firearms proficiency that reinforces use of force policy, and the best law enforcement practices in the use of deadly force and de-escalation of force.
  • 106 hours of use of force training at Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy.
  • Less-lethal training on the police baton, pepper spray and TASER.
  • 18-week Field Training Officer Program where the officer is instructed and/or evaluated on use of force techniques (officer presence, verbal skills, soft empty hand, and hard empty hand techniques, use of less-lethal weapons, deadly force), and the escalation and de-escalation of force based upon the levels of resistance and force continuum.
  • Annual training for all officers on use of force policy and the demonstration of proficiency with all approved lethal weapons and TASERS.
  • Biennial training for all officers for less-lethal weapons and weaponless control techniques.
  • De-escalation/use of force simulator for dynamic, reality-based training which involves less lethal and "shoot/don't shoot" scenarios.
  • Strategic Self-Defense and Grappling Tactics (SSGT).
  • Annual "Duty To Intervene" training.
  • Annual training on dealing with the mentally ill.
  • Quarterly firearms training and proficiency qualification.

In November 2021, two FPD instructors attended de-escalation instructor-level training developed by the Police Executive Research Forum and held at the University of Tennessee - Knoxville. The course, Integrated Communications and Tactics (ICAT), was designed to de-escalate situations involving persons who are unarmed or armed with weapons other than firearms and who may be experiencing a mental health or other crisis. The goal of ICAT is to enhance both officer safety and public safety. The training focuses on critical thinking, crisis intervention, communication skills, and tactics. Throughout 2022, this training was provided to all FPD sworn personnel during their annual refresher training. After receiving the 8-hour classroom training, the officers completed a 4-hour, scenario-based training to enhance their verbal skills. 

In addition to use of force training, Arkansas state law requires our officers to be trained in the prohibition of bias-based policing. Specifically, in 2003 the Arkansas state legislature passed Act 1207 to prohibit racial profiling. This Act prohibits the use of race, ethnicity, national origin or religion to determine which persons should be stopped and detained by law enforcement, and it requires officers to identify themselves by full name, jurisdiction, and to state the reason for the stop. Also, the Act requires law enforcement agencies to implement a "racial profiling prohibited" policy that is vetted and approved on an annual basis by the Arkansas Attorney General. Furthermore, Act 1207 requires new police recruits to receive cultural diversity and racial profiling training at ALETA. The Act and FPD policy require officers to receive annual training emphasizing the prohibition against racial profiling and ensures officers read and understand the policy. FPD's annual training promotes an understanding and respect for racial, religious, cultural history and cultural differences. 

Some topics we have trained our officers on include LGBTQ, religions of the world, cultural diversity, procedural justice, bias-based policing, cultural competence and African American history. In 2013, all of FPD's command staff attended the ALPFA lnstitute's Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion course at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas - Fayetteville. Command staff also attended the Racial Equity lnstitute's Racial Equity for System-Leaders course on systematic racism. Since 2020, FPD supervisors have attended race and equity training sponsored by the Racial Equity Institute and the NWA Cohesion Project. 

In 2022, the City of Fayetteville partnered with the IDEALS Institute, a training, consultancy and research institute within the University of Arkansas' Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). The IDEALS Institute works with system leaders and employers representing organizations of all sizes, including municipal governments and public agencies. Some of the topics of sessions included: Principals of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Facing Bias; Macroaggressions; and Race in the South. We will continue to partner with the IDEALS institute to provide DEI training for all FPD personnel. 

We consistently strive to work with community leaders and faith-based organizations to build trust, legitimacy and partnerships. One of these partnerships included joining in the "Living Room Conversations" program. During these interactions, myself, command staff and other department supervisors engaged with the community in small group focused discussions regarding race, equity and diversity, among other issues facing the community and the police department. These are core values of our mission statement here at FPD, and we will continue to have these discussions in the future. 

FPD officers receive Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training. This training establishes protocols for officers to follow when dealing with persons suffering from behavioral health impairments. The course includes guidance for officer safety as well as the safety of the behaviorally impaired individuals. Once assessed by a CIT officer, the individual experiencing crisis can be referred to one of our social service advocates, or the officer can advocate for the individual to be admitted to the Northwest Arkansas Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU). 

In 2020, FPD intensified efforts to establish alternative responses to people experiencing crises related to substance use, mental health and homelessness. This effort entailed partnering with the University of Arkansas School of Social Work, resulting in a graduate-level social work intern working alongside a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) trained officer as part of a co-response effort. In the fall of 2021, the FPD was awarded a Department of Justice grant to hire two Social Service Advocates. The City of Fayetteville also authorized hiring two CIT trained officers to partner with the advocates. With full-time staff in place, the Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT) was formed. In the fall of 2022, the University of Arkansas School of Social Work was awarded a $250,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct a robust program evaluation to determine CIRT's effectiveness and to disseminate the implementation process as a guide to other communities interested in co-response models. 

In 2022 alone, more than 550 individuals were referred to CIRT with numerous successful outcomes. At the conclusion of 2022, noted decreases were observed in the number and time spent by FPD staff on calls received for mental health crises and reports of self-harm when compared to 2021. The FPD continues to seek resources to grow this program while increasing the effectiveness with which it connects individuals in crisis to support services. 

In 2016, the FPD Chiefs Community Advisory Committee was formed. The Community Advisory Committee includes community leaders and private citizens who provide guidance to the chief of police on strategic planning, policy development and new initiatives. Committee members are appointed by the chief of police, and they meet throughout the year to provide feedback on police services, initiatives and community engagement events. 

In 2020, I was honored to serve on Governor Asa Hutchinson's Task Force to Advance the State of Law Enforcement in Arkansas. This task force's final report was a collaborative effort among citizens and law enforcement as a guide to aid in the process of enhancing law enforcement practices. You can find the final report of Governor Asa Hutchinson's Task Force to Advance the State of Law Enforcement in Arkansas here. 

Community outreach continues to be a priority for FPD. Each year, we aim to hold more than 200 community outreach events. Some of the highlights our 2022 events included partnering with: the Historic St. James Missionary Baptist Church to distribute 1000 backpacks to children in our community; St. James Food Pantry to deliver food boxes on a bi-weekly period to those battling food insecurities; and the Yvonne Richardson Community Center and Pedal it Forward to provide one hundred bicycles to children in need during Christmas. We commit to being intentional and conscientious in identifying and engaging with areas of our community where we see elevated instances of crime. Our Department of Justice - Project Safe Neighborhoods grant will help us do that and hold us accountable to continuing this mission. 

We are fortunate and blessed in Fayetteville to have the overwhelming support of our community. In order to maintain unification, we must continue to work together to educate one another on issues, and this is a partnership that requires continuous involvement from all stakeholders. No organization is perfect, but we always seek to grow, change and improve at FPD. My vision for the future is built on the six pillars of The President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which include building trust and legitimacy, policy and oversight, technology and social media, community policing and crime reduction, training and education and officer wellness and safety. 

Mike Reynolds
Chief of Police