Tumwater City Hall

Tumwater Police Department talks training


TUMWATER –– The Tumwater Police Department met with city representatives early Tuesday to discuss the amount of training that their officers undergo and how it relates to current concerns regarding the use of force. A key consideration on training and policy encompasses bias-based policing and de-escalation.

“Those are very hot topic training right now,” said Lt. Bruce Brenna. “The officers are out in scenario stations throughout their training to make sure that they have the skills and that they’re making the correct decisions.”

A great deal of the training officers receive starts back in the academy, which is essentially the training ground where recruits work on a wide variety of skills that will be needed once in the police force.

“They have 720 hours of training and that covers a number of topics, [such as] criminal law, firearms, [and] defensive tactics,” said Brenna. “The field training program runs about 14 weeks. That prepares them to be out in a patrol car as an officer on their own, and if they don’t successfully pass that or if they’re struggling in an area, we can extend that.”

Once out of the academy and on the road with the department, officers follow the regular training schedule of the department, according to Brenna.

Of course, like in local schools, the current pandemic has pushed the academy to integrate its programs with online content.

“We have two recruits who are actually due to graduate tomorrow,” explained Brenna. “They were actually at the academy, but still learning virtually in various classrooms.

A common concern that people have regarding policing is the amount of regular training that current officers receive.

“We have six department training days per year,” explained Brenna, which rounds out to about “60 hours annually,” once factors like travel time are taken into consideration.

This constitutes more yearly training hours than the State of Washington requires departments to implement.

“The state requires 24 hours,” continued Brenna. “The internal training covers another wide variety. We have annual firearms qualifications, many defensive tactics, annual less lethal updates and refreshers and we do active shooter [training] annually.” 

One of the main difficulties the department faces is that the number of hours on paper may look to provide more substance than it does in practice.

“So we work through our internal department training,” said Brenna. “Sixty hours seems like a lot, but it actually goes very quickly. We generally have most of our instructors who are asking for more time.

According to Brenna, the department performs “anywhere from two to eight hours of de-escalation training [annually], and they also have a four-hour block on understanding bias.”

Agencies often have to balance the relatively low number of training hours available with myriad crucial areas that officers benefit from through hands-on experience, as well as the unfunded state mandates that sometimes add to the training requirements for officers without providing the funds to do so. One example is Initiative 940, passed in 2019, which adds to the good faith standard in asking officers to consider whether another officer acting reasonably in similar conditions would believe the use of deadly force to be necessary.

The I-940 law necessitates additional training for officers regarding such scenarios.

“The way the law reads this is that [a] 40-hour course is required every four years,” explained Brenna. “The goal would be to try and have it all done by the end of ‘21 for all officers.”

The police representatives emphasized their focus on de-escalating scenarios as an area always under their concern, regardless of the terminology changes that tend to occur over time.

“De-escalation has been around my entire career. It just wasn’t called de-escalation, it was just called talking to people,” explained Brenna. “It gets a new title, it gets a new spin on it, but it’s something we’ve been emphasizing and doing for years.”

Sometimes police departments, like Tumwater, receive pressure to implement specific courses in de-escalation or understanding bias regardless of the quality of the class itself.

“We’re not just doing it for the sake of getting a certificate. It needs to be valuable training that our officers can actually use,” explained Brenna. “We have to be careful and not just sign up because of the name of the course.”

The leadership of the department believes that the training they implement is supported by having officers who demonstrate a solid commitment to their duties. 

“You can send somebody to a class and they can have a certificate, but if you don’t have good quality officers to start with, core good people who believe in their community and believe in their people, it’s just a certificate,” said Brenna. “One of the things to look at is culture. That’s an important part of this because we’re adding skills to already-great officers, and that’s what’s going to make a department great.”


Tumwater City Hall, Tumwater Police Department, bias training, police training, police de-escalation tactics, Lt. Bruce Brenna


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