Activists protest 'bulletproof' training of police officers at Mall of America

Protesters made their voices heard Wednesday as local law enforcement officers began a controversial training seminar at the Mall of America that many said contributed to the militarization of Twin Cities police forces.

Both the Minneapolis Police Department and the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office pulled out of the "BulletProof" training this week ahead of planned protests, while the St. Paul Police Department dropped the seminar in the wake of a 2016 police shooting in Falcon Heights, Minn., that claimed the life of Philando Castile.

According to the training company’s website, officers focus on “pre-incident preparation, threats to democracy, detecting deception and reading body language.” 

Community activists were outraged when they learned Yanez apparently had more than 55 hours of what they called “fear-based” training on the force - including BulletProof. They also learned he had just a couple hours of instruction focused on what they describe as “de-escalation” techniques.

“They teach officers that their lives are in danger at all moments and that the community is really their enemy. We don’t think that kind of training is appropriate here in Minnesota,” said Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality.

Gross explained that her organization obtained the training materials from the class, which is owned and taught by Illinois-based Calibre Press.

The owner and lead instructor, Jim Glennon, said the training is the gold standard for a modern police force, with plenty of attention paid to de-escalation tactics. 

The Yanez traffic stop is now used as a video teaching tool.

“This training is absolutely designed to save the lives not just of police officers, but citizens. Our job is to bring police training up to another level, and this is the training people afraid of police officers would want them to have,” Glennon said. 

But with the voices of protesters rising in recent days, several local police agencies pulled their officers out of this week’s training session, including Minneapolis police, Ramsey County and State Patrol.

The Chisago County sheriff’s office, however, publicly backed the curriculum and sent a pair of deputies to the course. That sergeant explained has the potential to save lives.

“I've thought through this situation, I've been able to make decisions which have kept our community safe and our deputies safe,” said Sergeant Kyle Puelston with the Chisago County sheriff’s office.