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Fact check: Does improper police training have to be disclosed in court?

Defense can request officer training records prior to trial
Pueblo officer-involved shooting Mar 20
Posted at 4:26 PM, Mar 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 07:39:15-04

PUEBLO — Pueblo Police Chief Chris Noeller was open and honest about a state report that found a portion of the police training academy was not in compliance with Colorado standards.

Chris Noeller, Pueblo Police Department
Chris Noeller, Pueblo Police Department

“I take responsibility,” Pueblo Police Chief Chris Noeller said in an interview with News 5 this month.

Noeller stepped up to answer questions after Colorado’s Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) found some training methods at the recruitment academy fell outside approved guidelines.

In question is the Arrest Control Training (ACT) which teaches officers how to gain control when a suspect is violent or resisting arrest.

“One of the things I am trying to help our officers get away from is the use of closed hand strikes (punching)," Noeller said.

Chief Noeller said there are times when a punch is necessary. He would also rather have officers avoid this technique, if possible.

He said he is the one who told instructors to amend the ACT portion of training at the academy. He says he wanted to add alternative ways to subdue a suspect, like utilizing martial art techniques.

“You’re using leverage, weight and other methods in order to take somebody into custody," he said.

Pueblo police cruiser.jpg
Police cruisers parked at the scene of an officer-involved shooting on West 18th Street in Pueblo.

A review just completed by POST inspectors said the diversion from officially outlined training is not allowed.

“They did what they had to do,” said Noeller, “So they came down and they inspected us. They saw that we were using these other techniques and they determined it was outside of our protocol.”

The most recent class of cadets is just graduating, so their move to duty will be delayed.

Meanwhile, members of the previous graduating class will be pulled from duty to resolve training discrepancies.

There is a one day test that, if passed, allows for a waiver. If the new officers are not successful, they have to go through a two week training course.

Noeller said POST did the right thing and the department should have stayed within the parameters of protocols. He will now work through proper channels to try and possibly include a hybrid version of ACT that includes more technique alternatives when use of force by an officer is necessary.

“I promise you we’re not teaching our officers crazy tactics that are unsafe or that are going to cause further injury,” said Noeller, “The idea is to reduce injury to both our officers and our suspects.”

News 5 reached out to the Colorado District Attorneys' Council to ask whether training standards and issues with training compliance are part of court proceedings and whether they can have any impact on a future trial.

"It is not the responsibility for the prosecutor to convey an independent agency's determination of a department's training compliance," CDAC Deputy Executive Director Arnold Hanuman said. "That is a function of the defense investigatory process and is not a disclosure issue as contemplated by the rules of criminal procedure."

In other words, the defense can ask the courts to disclose training records and procedures for any and all officers involved in an arrest.

We're still working to learn how many criminal cases may be under review by PPD and/or the Pueblo County District Attorney's Office.

According to police, a total of five officers have been temporarily pulled off patrol---but it's unknown how many cases involved an arrest where apprehension tactics/training was utilized.

Other information released by CDAC:

"The success of any prosecution is based on the jury’s determination as to whether a case has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, which is determined by its assessment of the credibility of witness testimony and presentation of other relevant evidence – a fact-specific analysis which is frequently challenged in the cross-examination phase of any trial. Improper police procedures – such as unlawful arrests inconsistent with the federal and state constitutions – will be litigated in pre-trial motions hearings. Non-compliance with constitutional requirements will result in evidence being suppressed; non-compliance with statutory requirements will typically be admissible and left for the jury’s consideration. Disclosure of an officer’s training records and a summary of his/her testimony as it relates to the areas of expert testimony is already subject to the criminal rules of procedure for criminal trials. Issues that are related to an officer’s credibility as to truthfulness, or evidence that is exculpatory to the defendant’s guilt, is also required under disclosure rules.”