Jeronimo Yanez, the St. Anthony, Minnesota Police Officer who fatally shot Philando Castile, underwent “Bulletproof Warrior” officer survival indoctrination that imparts what one police trainer calls a “paranoid” and“militaristic” mindset.
In May of 2014, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Yanez underwent a 20-hour seminar on “Street Survival” taught by Illinois-based Calibre Press, which teaches courses on the subject to police officers nationwide. The company’s “Street Survival Seminar” overview displays a monomaniacal focus on that most important of all policy considerations, “officer safety.” It treats every police encounter as a combat situation in which only one life truly matters – that of the government’s armed emissary, not that of the citizen who is supposedly being protected and served by him.
Although Calibre co-owner Jim Glennon has written that viewing “police as the enemy is not a healthy or helpful position for a society to take,” the courses presented by his company relentlessly teach officers that the public is their enemy. As one instructor summarized the course for the benefit of his students, “We’ve got to survive this job!”
“The goal and purpose of the Calibre Press Street Survival Seminar is twofold: Keep officers alive and give them the tools to enjoy a successful career in law enforcement,” explains the company’s promotional literature. “In order to accomplish this mission we need to tackle the realities and complexities of policing today for officers on the street … while placing the responsibility for winning right where it belongs – with the individual officer.”
A brief video excerpt from a “Street Survival” course shows a presenter lecturing officers about the need to visualize shooting someone as part of the “Psychological Game” necessary to “win” encounters with what trainees are told is an implacably hostile public.
“That’s winning, ladies and gentlemen,” he declares.
“Traffic stops kill police officers, injure police officers – that’s a fact,” insists another lecturer. “But – and I’ll say this – it’s our bread and butter for enforcement.”
Local police had certainly feasted on Philando Castile, who had been stopped 52 times over the course of 14 years, and paid thousands of dollars in citations. Although he had no criminal record beyond traffic misdemeanors, Castile was known to the St. Anthony Police Department, which patrolled the town where the fatal traffic stop occurred.
Officer Yanez reportedly believed that Castile broadly resembled a suspect in a recent armed robbery. This may explain why he made what appears to be a “pretext stop.” It neither explains nor justifies why he opened fire on a citizen who was compliant, and who possessed a valid carry permit. The officer’s attorney insists that the mere presence of a gun was sufficient to trigger the officer’s lethal reaction – which makes sense, given that Yanez had been marinated in Calibre’s “officer safety” alarmism.
“The force used has to be `reasonable and necessary,’” “Street Survival” attendees are told. “And who judges if it is `reasonable and necessary’? It is to the officer’s standards.”
“Does the public understand, and are they trained in the dynamics of use of force as you and I are? No!” continues the harangue. This is why police must act as evangelists to the ignorant public, catechizing them about the sacred imperative of officer safety, and the duty of citizens to submit with docility in every encounter with the state’s agents of coercion.
“Teach them,” the lecturer exhorted. “Establish, articulate, and indoctrinate.”
Calibre’s“Bulletproof” lectures are jointly taught by Glennon and David Grossman, a retired Army Lt. Colonel and former Army Ranger who originated the now-common conceit that police and military personnel are “sheepdogs” blessed with the “gift of aggression” and who have a divine duty to deal out violence against “wolves.”
In this depiction, the public are “sheep” – to be protected and, of course, sheared as their overseers see fit.
Interestingly in addition to the familiar instruction regarding officer safety and the “sheepdog mentality,” those who attend “Bulletproof” training events are also taught about “Threats to Democracy” – an examination of “the current relationship between law enforcement and the community they are sworn to protect while also identifying the most current threats to both.”
The “Street Survival” seminar Yanez attended was not the only training of this sort he received. He took a similar 20-hour “Officer Survival” course from a different company two years earlier. Just a few weeks before the fatal encounter with Castile, Yanez participated in a two-hour training course entitled “de-escalation.” This was his “only instruction in his four years with the department that appears to focus on that approach,” summarizes the Star-Tribune, which obtained his training records.
William Czech, who attended a two-day Bulletproof Warrior class at a Bloomington, Minnesota Ramada Inn, described himself as “horrified” by the course. Czech is a private citizen, not a police officer, and he attended the class following encounters between police and a relative who suffers from mental illness. The second day of the class was devoted to videos of shootouts between police and citizens, with narration by Calibre co-owner Glennon.
“Every time a video came up where the officer hesitated, he would stop and he would say, `This is a point where there should have been a reaction, he should have engaged,” Czech recalls.
While he admits that his course teaches officers that “hesitation will get you killed,” Glennon insists that Czech’s perception was “totally inaccurate.”
“That’s why we don’t let the press in” to the training seminars, Glennon added.
Michael Becar, executive director of the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement, agrees with Czech’s supposedly untutored assessment of Calibre’s “officer survival” training.
“Everything they were doing made the police officers very paranoid,” he points out. “At some point, they wouldn’t even stop a car without three backups.”
Peter Kraska, chairman of the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University, has described Calibre’s training seminars as “irresponsible” and “dangerous.” The actions of the program’s most notable graduate, Officer Jeronimo Yanez, demonstrate the lethal consequences of weaponizing the “officer safety” mindset.