Franklin, Smithfield police departments host what some consider a model training program
Published 10:14 am Wednesday, February 4, 2015
The Franklin and Smithfield police departments combined resources recently to host a two-day training session by the U.S. Department of Justice.
When Franklin Police Chief Phil Hardison first arrived in 2004, he brought in the agency to give an abbreviated version of what was recently delivered. Following the incidents in Ferguson, Missouri, Hardison thought it was especially important that officers have a clear understanding of all of the issues surrounding incidents of that nature.
“It included discussions of constitutional and civil rights for citizens,” he said. “Constitutional and civil rights are very important to us, and we take them very seriously.
“It was mandatory that all officers attended this training.”
On top of civil rights issues, it also talked about the role of the Department of Justice, as well as the FBI, should an officer ever be involved in such an incident.
“We wanted to make sure officers had a clear understanding, so that they would both understand their rights and trust the process,” Hardison said.
He also wanted to collaborate with fellow departments in the Hampton Roads region, but to do so effectively, he’d need a partner. So, back in October, he reached out to Smithfield Police Department Chief Steve Bowman, who agreed to help host the program.
Approximately 200 officers, some from as far away as Danville, took part in the training. More than 26 agencies were present, which included Commonwealth Attorneys and Sheriff’s Offices and the majority of the Hampton Roads police departments.
Dep. Chief A. Howell with the Smithfield Police Department said he was glad the department was able to play a role in it.
“I enjoyed the training,” he said. “In fact, we made it mandatory for all of our officers to attend the training, if not in Smithfield, then in Franklin.
“All of our officers attended, and I thought it was beneficial training.”
Howell thought it was important that officers got to see it from the perspective of the federal agencies.
“A lot of times, the mindset for officers is that the federal government is out to get the officers, but that’s not the case,” he said. “It gives officers a snapshot of what the process will look, should they have to come in. From a leadership perspective, we thought that was important.”
The next part of the program involved community relations, and how to potentially improve them.
“Our department? We are big on being community police,” Howell said. “Our officers are encouraged to be out in the public and getting to know the citizens they serve.”
Hardison and Howell both agreed that involving the other agencies was important, particularly since they share resources regionally.
“Anytime you have an opportunity to network, it is always a good opportunity,” Howell said. “Networking is always good in this profession.”
They were also both able to be involved and took a lot out of it, individually.
“Without question,” Hardison said about learning from the event. “There was a lot of information shared, and I thought there was a consistent theme in the overall message that lends itself to professional standards and conduct, and the importance of communication between the community and law enforcement agencies.”
At the end of it all, Hardison said he couldn’t have done this alone, that the Department of Justice and Smithfield Police Department were excellent partners.
“I’m very grateful for the time and energy that the Department of Justice put into this — I think they did a wonderful job,” Hardsion said. “I’d also like to thank Chief Bowman for his time and interest in helping us.”
Since doing it, the program also seems to be catching on in other areas.
“I’ve had calls from Georgia to Michigan,” he said. “Local law enforcement agencies in other areas are interested in this sort of training.”
But that wasn’t Hardison’s reason for doing it.
“I am very proud of our police officers and the job they do, in the manner in which they conduct themselves,” he said. “It was a great opportunity to reinforce our beliefs and our values, which we hope translates into better service delivered to our public.”