WAUNAKEE, Wis. (AP) — A month after a white Madison police officer shot and killed an unarmed biracial man, the sheriff's department is trying to build understanding of the training it gives on how to deal with split-second life and death decisions.
Police officers can use deadly force to protect their lives or the lives of others in imminent danger but must be able to justify why they didn't use a less lethal option in the aftermath, Dane County sheriff's deputies told reporters this week during a four-hour training session on use-of-force policies.
The session came as District Attorney Ismael Ozanne continues to weigh whether to file criminal charges against city of Madison police officer Matt Kenny, who shot and killed 19-year-old Tony Robinson last month. Kenny was responding to calls that Robinson had assaulted two people and was running in traffic. Police said Robinson attacked Kenny inside an apartment house.
The shooting prompted multiple protests in Madison, with activists calling for Kenny to be charged with murder. Anger over police brutality is simmering in a number of cities across the county where white officers have killed black men in recent months, prompting calls for police to re-examine their use of force polices and accusations of racism.
Several other police associations and departments across the country, including the Dallas Police Association, the Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff's department and the San Antonio Police Department have run similar use-of-force sessions for community leaders and activists in recent months.
"The impetus is what's happening around the country," said Ron Pinkston, president of the Dallas Police Association. "People don't understand and aren't trained like police officers. We will shoot if we can't see your hands or if we're in a deadly force situation. It's not our job to get hurt or get killed."
Brandi Grayson, a spokeswoman for the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition, the group that has been leading the Robinson protests, said she knew little about the Dane County session or how it was presented. But she said it appeared to be an attempt to generate sympathy for the police.