WINDSOR, Va. – During a de-escalation training class Thursday, officers with the Windsor Police Department were shown videos of real-life scenarios on how to use different tactics to avoid drawing their guns when responding to calls.
“Not everything can be de-escalated; we wish it could,” said John Bostain, the president of Command Presence Training.
Bostain is a former officer and use-of-force expert. He travels the country training police departments on how to improve their interactions with the community.
For the past two days, Bostain has been working with Windsor Police and other officers from nearby jurisdictions.
Windsor Police Chief Dan Riddle also took the class.
News 3 asked Riddle if he thinks the training classes will actually work. He said yes.
“I think the objective is to get guys to think differently about how they do their job,” Riddle said.
The department was compelled to make changes after body camera video of a December 5, 2020, traffic stop went viral, sparking nationwide outrage.
In the last few weeks, the department has taken measures to reform, including reviewing and updating its traffic enforcement and use of force policies; creating a hiring panel with two sitting community members and one council member; and going through a four-hour implicit bias course and de-escalation training.
“It’s important for guys to get that refresher on information and then most importantly, you’ve got to grow and develop and change,” Riddle said. “You have to look at what you’re doing. Is there a better way to do it? Those are kind of the approaches we’re taking here. What can we do better? What are we doing really well? Where do we need improve, and what things do we need to add to our tool kits in our ability to respond to calls and interactions with the public?”
Bostain admits things could have been handled differently after watching the viral video of the police encounter, which is still under criminal investigation by Virginia State Police.
“Do you think they used excessive force?” News 3 asked.
“I don’t make any opinions if I don’t have all the information,” Bostain said. “The use of force is not as big a concern because I think based on the totality of the circumstances that may end up being reasonable force under the law.”
Bostain said he felt disappointed when he saw the body cam video.
“When something like that happens and we have these videos, they all go viral - the entire profession, we take a hit,” he said. “All of us, we take a hit for it and it's frustrating.”
Bostain said changing the culture of policing involves engaging and building trust with the community.
“We can reform the police all we want, but they can't fix it on their own,” he said. “We can change everything that they do, and we can add all this training but at some point, the community's got to come along with us. Where can we actually engage people a little bit differently? Because if we only focus on the police, this problem is just not going to be fixed.”
Riddle said the force does community policing, but there’s always room for improvement.
“It’s not an overnight process,” he said. “It’s a long-term process. It starts with doing our job better; going out and building those relationships and working back toward that goal we talked about.”
The department of six still has one spot to fill on the force after one of the officers from the body cam video was fired. Chief Riddle told News 3 he has yet to receive one applicant for the job. He believes it’s partly because of the constant scrutiny police are under.