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Police Officers Increase Training to Help Victims of Sexual Assault

West Bloomfield Police Officer Sgt. Tara Kane instructed a class on sexual assault last week, one of many classes in a 40-hour block of training.

Police officers handle situations that most people have encountered only on a television or movie screen, so it is critical that their skills are finely honed and up to date. West Bloomfield Police Chief when he was appointed in October that increasing training standards is a key component of what he hopes to accomplish.

Proficiency in marksmanship, self-defense, observation, interviewing, report-writing and even psychology is important to safety, and officers this week completed a 40-hour block of training classes designed to double the annual amount of training they had received under Chief Ronald Cronin. 

Last week, Sgt. Tara Kane of the conducted a training session on the grim subject of sexual assault. Kane, who specializes in youth issues such as child abuse as well as cases involving sexual predators, presented some chilling statistics to a group of police officers.

According to Kane, sexual assault is the most unreported crime in this country; the majority of victims are children; and 85 percent of all reported assaults involve someone the victim knows personally, such as a family member.

“It’s not the stranger jumping out of the bushes; it’s more often a friend or family member," said Kane, adding that the perpetrator is usually someone who has put himself in a position of trust.

"Victims are chosen because they are vulnerable, accessible or lacking in credibility, and children are the most vulnerable."

Kane gave her audience tips for helping victims overcome the shame and self-blame that often accompanies this type of crime.

“It starts with us,” she said. “Cops can help victims by making them feel believed.”

Referring victims to local community resources after the police work has been done is an important part of the job, Kane said.

The training session included information about various local resources that offer shelter, counseling, advocacy and other services such as , Haven and Common Ground.

This training will take place again in the fall.

New technology offers benefits beyond traditional firearms training

In West Bloomfield, training officers to use weapons or other kinds of physical force goes far beyond target practice. In addition to the basic marksmanship qualification requirements established by the Michigan Coalition on Law Enforcement Standards, the Canadian Academy of Practical Shooting (CAPS) program is used to help enhance decision-making skills in dangerous situations.

Officers stand opposite a movie screen that depicts various scenarios ranging from domestic violence calls to robberies. The officers decide whether to use their guns based on what is happening in each scene, which instructor Sgt. Mark Stout said offers a real-time scenario that benefits officers.

“It’s more than firearms training,” said Stout. “It’s about making a judgment: At what time did the threat present itself? It really gets them thinking and moving.”

Stout said officers are also trained in the use of less lethal weapons, such as Tasers and pepper spray. Several members of the police force were trained for the first time in Krav Maga, an Israeli self-defense system using “empty hand controls” instead of weapons.

“There’s a spectrum of tools for applying force, and a gun is the last tool in that spectrum,” said Stout.

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