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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Guest opinion: Killology training has no place in Spokane

UPDATED: Wed., June 17, 2020

By Angel Tomeo Sam, Carmen Pacheco-Jones and Rickey “Deekon” Jones

Peaceful protests have erupted across Spokane in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement that is mobilizing across the nation in response to Black deaths at the hands of those sworn to “protect and serve.”

Peaceful protesters have raised their voices in unison calling for police accountability and to transform our public safety system. Yet, while protesters march to call for an end to police violence against Black and indigenous communities, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich advocates for a public forum in support of the Spokane County Sheriff sponsored “Killology” training he has already scheduled for this October.

Killology training is believed to decrease trauma by desensitizing officers to the experience of killing. In other words, officers are taught to kill without remorse.

Training that fails to build a recognition of the shared humanity of members of the community and the officers who serve said community only further perpetuates systemic racism that is endemic to systems of “justice.”

The community has spoken: We demand that Killology training not occur in Spokane County.

Understanding that Spokane’s Black and indigenous citizens are policed and arrested at highly disproportionate rates effectively puts them at an increased risk of being killed by police.

Members of all communities in Spokane are calling for an end to Killology training.

One petition, Killology Kills Black People: Ban the Training in Spokane County, has already garnered over 2,000 local signatures. Other petitions have also received support. Unlike other petitions, the Killology Kills campaign is allied with Color for Change and is Black and indigenous led.

We reject the call for a “community forum” as founders of the campaign, we stand against the training Sheriff Knezovich, who we ask to “Read the Room.”

Killology’s leading researcher was discredited by Washington State University psychology professor and American Journal of Psychology editor, Lisa Fournier.

After reviewing a Killology Research Group study in 2011 and 2012 Fournier said it “lacked basic elements of legitimate research, such as control groups, and drew conclusions that were unsupported by the data.” In a 2012 court document Fournier asserted, “In summary, this study is invalid and unreliable.”

In response to a 2018 Spokesman-Review editorial and in support of I-940 which among other things called for police to receive de-escalation training, Jay Flemming explained, “Last year, more people in Washington died in encounters with law enforcement than in 45 other states, and almost a third of those killed were experiencing a mental health crisis. The current training isn’t doing enough to keep civilians safe, especially those most in need of assistance.”

It is apparent that our law enforcement does not have an issue using violence when they deem it necessary, especially against Black and Indigenous people and those experiencing a mental health crisis.

Since the passing of I-940, our community has engaged with law enforcement in efforts to work toward accountable community-based policing.

We suggest holding a forum with mental health experts who used evidence-based information to address behavioral health issues, including law enforcement suicides. In many ways, such issues are enhanced by law enforcement’s support of the kind of “warrior” or “fear-based” mindset promoted by the Killology training.

Welcoming a public forum on Killology is the polar opposite of what Sheriff Ozzie Knezovichs’ constituents are peacefully protesting for on our Spokane streets.

We are protesting for change, nonviolence within our law enforcement, an end to the systemic racism that plagues our criminal justice system and disproportionately kills Black and indigenous people.

The Spokane community asks the sheriff to follow the examples of the Mayor of Minneapolis and the Sheriff of Santa Clara County, California, the latter saying, after canceling a Killology training, that her officers were meant to be “peacemakers first and warriors second.”

Providing a public platform to Killology teachings prompts the community to view law enforcement as being disingenuous in their attempt to build better relations with our community.

Angel Tomeo Sam is a member of the Bail Project, Spokane. Carmen Pacheco-Jones is chair of the Racial Equity Committee. Rickey “Deekon” Jones is chief executive officer of New Developed Nations.

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