Ramsey County Pulls Deputies from Controversial Training

May 13, 2018 11:11 PM

A controversial training for police officers that was once attended by former St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez is returning to the Twin Cities this week.

Bulletproof – a traveling seminar put on by a former police commander and military colonel management – has been criticized for promoting overly aggressive police tactics.

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5 EYEWITNESS NEWS confirmed at least 32 officers or deputies from eight departments in the metro will attend Bulletproof seminars at Mall of America on Wednesday and Thursday.

Commander Paul Sommer with the Anoka County Sheriff's Office, which is sending 5 deputies to the seminars, says Bulletproof has been "well received as a training tool."

Ten deputies from the Ramsey County Sheriff's had been scheduled to attend the training, but the department cancelled their registration after the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS inquiry.

"It was a very easy decision," Chief Deputy Steve Frazer said. "We're rescinding those approvals."

Frazer previously attended a Bulletproof seminar but says the training no longer aligns with department's core values.

"I think there is some value to some of what the colonel trains, but the mere situation where that training is in today's society isn't something we want to be a part of," he said.

The training generated controversy in 2016 after it became known that Yanez, the former St. Anthony police officer who was acquitted of all criminal charges after he shot and killed Philando Castile, had attended the training two years earlier.

At the time, the training included a seminar called Bulletproof Warrior – a term that critics argued instilled a military mindset.

Online promotional videos on the company's website highlight fiery speeches in which instructors stress the need to "be warriors" who are intensely invested. 

Jim Glennon, a former police commander who teaches one of the seminars, says warrior was dropped from the name because the term has been "hijacked" by critics who took their lessons out of context.

"It's the opposite of what people think this training is," Glennon said. "We don't advocate shooting somebody who doesn't need to be shot, we don't even advocate yelling at somebody who doesn't need to be yelled at."

Glennon says he uses videos of police shootings to teach officers how to lower their stress levels and communicate better in high-pressure situations.

That instruction now includes reviewing the dashcam video of Yanez shooting and killing Castille during a traffic stop in July 2016.

"We talk a little bit about the tactics," Glennon said. "Should Yanez have gotten out of the car?"

Glennon says he challenges his classes to consider the different options in that scenario and to learn from what they're watching.

"I'm not even saying he made a mistake, "Glennon said. "God knows…I don't know."

Bulletproof has been approved by the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards.

"One of our major goals is to have the POST board not approve training of this nature," said Dave Bicking, an activist with the organization Communities United Against Police Brutality.

Bicking, who plans to protest outside the seminars this week, says he is encouraged that some departments are no longer sending officers to the training.

"That shift has to go much deeper," he said.

The department reviews overall are mixed. St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell decided Bulletproof would no longer be a training option when he took over the department in 2016.

Minneapolis Police is sending seven training officers and supervisors to vet this week's seminars.

"We feel it is important that we know what is being taught in various law enforcement trainings and to evaluate its appropriateness to send any officers to in the future," said John Elder, a department spokesperson.

Erik Altmann contributed to this story.

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