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OFFICE OF THE CITY ATTORNEY
Sara  R. Grewing, City Attorney

 

CITY OF SAINT PAUL
Christopher B. Coleman, Mayor


Litigation Section
750 City Hall
15 West Kellogg Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55102
Telephone: 651 266-8770
Facsimile: 651 266-8787 

July 19, 2013 

Sgt. Edward L. Lemon
Saint Paul Police Department
367 Grove Street
Saint Paul, MN 55101 

Re:      L.E.A.D.S. Training Program 

Dear Sgt. Lemon: 

I am writing this letter to you about my impressions of the training program (L.E.A.D.S.) which I attended on July 9, 2013, presented by Lt. Kevin F. Dillon.  As I am sure you are aware, ChiefTom Smith was very interested in having the attorneys from the civil litigation attend this training because of the value of its message to those involved in law enforcement issues.   Besides myself, three attorneys from my division attended the training. The reaction from each attendee was very positive. Each year our division provides officer training on issues concerning civilliability for police officers; a reality we face in the work that we do. Our presentations include discussions of cases and situations where officers have been sued and a primer on the laws associated with these types of lawsuits. In addition, we walk officers through what they can anticipate in the event they are named in a lawsuit. As an overview, our training is helpful.  But, after spending an entire day in the L.E.A.D.S. training, I was greatly impressed with the depth and the content of Lt. Dillon's  presentation.  I came away with ideas for improving our training. 

The Presentation

First and foremost, Lt. Dillon is a very dynamic, energetic and knowledgeable  speaker. It was like being treated to an entertaining one-man show.  Lt. Dillon had instant credibility with the officers because ofhis extensive background in law enforcement, SWAT and L.O.C.K.U.P. training, and his martial arts expertise. He connected well with audience, using real life examples, humor, interactive scenarios and very useful visuals.  Typically day long training sessions can be very taxing, but not this one.  The day flew by and was very enjoyable. 

The Content of the Training

This training is by far the best I have observed.  At the outset, Lt. Dillon set forth the program goals which were: 1) develop effective communication skills; 2) de-escalation strategies; 3) defuse hostile encounters; 4) develop strategic responses when diffusion is ineffective or an appropriate option. The basic tenet of his presentation  was to promote officer safety, reduce complaints and litigation and to build community support for the officers.  He identified the importance of developing good communication skills, both verbal and body language.  After all, the majority of officer calls are service related and by developing good communication skills can make the difference in the outcome. I feel that Lt. Dillon met all of the goals of his program. 

As a civil litigator, I appreciated his communication demonstrations and emphasis on courtesy because most of our lawsuits involve people who felt they were treated poorly either because of what was said to them, or how they felt they were treated by the officers.  Moreover, he made very good points that the people the police encounter day to day could either be in a situation where an officer needs their help, or could potentially be a juror on their case. 

The practical message was officer and public safety combined with real life skill training to achieve those results. 

Value of the Training 

While the training was primarily geared towards front line officers, it included meaningful messages for law enforcement officers in supervisory positions to lead by example and to challenge any behaviors that may reduce officer professionalism or compromise safety. The community relations message was handled tactfully with a dose of humor to drive home the point.  From a litigation perspective, I was very impressed with the substance of the information provided. As mentioned above, litigation is a certain reality in law enforcement. Our common goal is to reduce the number of lawsuits, minimize injury to officers and the public and to increase community support.   I appreciated the strategies offered and the common sense approach to dealing with simple calls and highly dangerous ones. The information provided about physiological responses under stress and the importance of providing oxygen to the brain was very helpful.  Lastly, the defensive tactics portion of the training was particularly valuable.  My hope is this training may result in fewer lawsuits, or at least equip our officers with information that will minimize the impact of those lawsuits. Ultimately, the most important message from this training was officer safety as they perform a very difficult and stressful job. 

I personally benefited from this training and I would highly recommend it for officers, police managers and attorneys who defend officers. Thank you for including me and my fellow litigators in this valuable training. 

Sincerely, 

  

     Judith A. Hanson

     Assistant City Attorney
     City of Saint Paul




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