ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — The Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy said there are extensive training requirements for all law enforcement officials in Arkansas.
On Sunday, two Crawford County deputies and a Mulberry police officer were recorded by a citizen kicking and punching a suspect who was lying on the ground outside of a Mulberry gas station.
Since then, the video has gained national attention. Now, many are wondering if the use of force the officials were using was justified. ALETA could not speak on the actions of the three law enforcement officials due to an ongoing investigation, but did shed light on some of the training they would have gone through.
All law enforcement officials in Arkansas are required to participate in at least 520 hours of basic police academy training. The hours change based on the classification of the officer. Part-time, auxillary and specialized officers are required to complete no less than 110 hours of CLEST-approved basic training.
On an annual basis, all law enforcement officers must undergo a minimum of 24 hours of education through ALETA.
After the death of George Floyd, which caused national concern over policing measures, CLEST made a variety of changes to the training including adding additional reporting elements related to an officer’s separation from a law enforcement agency.
Fred Weatherspoon, the Deputy Director for ALETA, said some of the the training includes: field training techniques, ethics, the duty to intervene and use of force training.
“So, there’s never an incident where excessive force is acceptable, only a force reasonable to affect the arrest at the time,” said Weatherspoon.
How much force should be used will depend on the situation at hand.
“It’s constantly evolving — assessing the situation where they are elevating the use of force as necessary to gain compliance,” said Weatherspoon.
He went on to say, “Once that person is in compliance, then the arrest is completed. All use of force should cease at that point in time.”
Weatherspoon acknowledged there may be occasions where law enforcement officials could lose sight of their training in a high-stress situation. However, he also said law enforcement officials are trained to know what to do in those environments and are held to a higher standard.
He feels confident, though, in the training provided by ALETA and the work to continually improve the program. He said in the future, ALETA hopes to up the minimum standards for the field training officer program and incorporate more communication skills in training, among a variety of other skills.
“I think that some of the recommendations we’re currently working on will continue to improve the training that our law enforcement personnel receive,” said Weatherspoon.
As for the two Crawford County deputies and Mulberry officer, according to the Crawford County Sheriff, they were veteran law personnel. They went through basic ALETA training, plus years of annual training.
Arkansas State Police is investigating the use of force by these officials to determine if the techniques they used were justified.