Baltimore Police Department opens training center to community leaders

BALTIMORE - It is considered among the most dysfunctional relationships in Baltimore between City police and those they pledge to protect.

Residents are grateful for their help in times of greatest need, but they’re tarred with words like abusive, excessive or brutal when someone thinks their activities are out of the main.

Now, the department is working to break down some of the walls and give citizens a peek behind curtain as to what it takes for these men and women to earn the badge.

The workshop, involving more than a dozen members of faith-based and community organizations involved a walk-through of topics, ranging from firearms training, the use of deadly force and training with Tasers.

Portions of the three-hour class were colorful and the back and forth between citizens and officers often spirited. However, the ultimate goal of the day was simple: Encourage an atmosphere of transparency as to how the department trains its officers and help the public understand the steps leading up to those decisions. 

“We have a vested interest in making sure our community understands what it is were trying to do,” said acting captain Eric Kowalczyk. “The best way to do that is to bring them forward and have them be a part of our training, getting them to experience what we experience.”

David Owens, a coach at Bishop O’Connell High School, was one of those community leaders attending the forum. He, like many others in the room, believes the path to building that relationship between police officers and the public must first begin with mutual respect.

“I already have respect for law enforcement,” he said. “But it just drives home the point that these men and women put their lives on the line for us every day.”

Owens got a chance to experience that first hand when he stepped into the department’s simulator and was presented with a case involving a standoff with an attacker armed with a shotgun.

When presented with the option to act, Owens hesitated.

“I froze up,” he said. “I really did. I realized it was my life or his and wanted to be sure before I pulled that trigger.”

While introducing the public to critical training, Baltimore City Police also wanted to relay the sentiment that every case it unique and every circumstance different.

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