The bedrock of public safety in any community is its law enforcement.
Hundreds of officers hit the streets of Amarillo every day to make sure that bedrock is firmly in place.
Officers face just about any situation you can think of on a daily basis and thanks to the addition of video cameras in cars, we get a better idea of exactly what they go through.
Amarillo police came under fire earlier this year over a highly publicized arrest of a young man accused of carrying marijuana.
On the video, it appears the officers are using unnecessary force to subdue the suspect, but the officers involved have all been cleared of any wrong doing.
The police chief says the officers used techniques they were trained to use when dealing with an uncooperative suspect.
Despite this, a citizens’ group says the department needs an overhaul.
Civil rights attorney Jeff Blackburn help found Amarillo Citizens for Open Government (ACOG).
“The fact of the matter is, we have got a broken police department in Amarillo. I don’t know why it broke or how it got broke. But, it’s not working. There are too many citizens with too many complaints not being resolved.” Blackburn said.
City council member Elisha Demerson said, “We’re going to work through the city manager. Work with the chief of police and to figure out how we can equip our police officers with the tools that they need to be a best in class police office.”
Amarillo police say they welcome all suggestions for improvement but, feel like they already have a top notch department. And it all starts with training.
Each officer goes through hundreds of hours of training before they ever put on a uniform.
“What people don’t realize is how much training our officers go through. Our academy is 27 weeks long. We go through every scenario imaginable.” Said, Cpl. Jerry Neufeld of the Amarillo police department.
Here are just a few examples of what officers face on a daily basis.
It was a simple trespassing call, but officers soon faced a tough decision because they knew the suspect had an outstanding warrant for assault when she emerged from the vehicle with a knife.
“We know from our training, a person can cover about 21 feet and inflict some very major if not deadly strikes with a knife before you have time to draw a weapon and defend yourself.” Neufeld said.
In this case, the officers would’ve likely been justified in shooting the suspect, because she was armed. But, officers instead deployed a stun gun subduing the woman.
This has happened to a lot of us at one time or another. You’re pulled over by police for a traffic violation.
“You’re always going to come across somebody at some point during your shift, or maybe even a few shifts that just want to be difficult.” Neufeld said.
This driver was pulled over for making a u-turn. But, the officer faces an uncooperative man who didn’t want to give him his information.
The driver used profanity throughout the stop, but the officer remained calm.
Corporal Neufeld says this scenario is also a part of their training. “We want them to be able to stand there and be called whatever name they want to call us and yes sir I understand you’re upset , but this is what has occurred and I’m going to write you a citation.
That’s what happened in this case and the driver left.
This scenario unfortunately is very common for officers. They’re speeding to the scene of a large fight in south Amarillo. But many of the other cars on the street were oblivious to the flashing lights and siren.
“I think what we saw here was pretty typical.” Neufeld said.
High speed driving is also a part of their training which they’re required to retake every two years.
Neufeld says the department has only been using video cameras for about 20-years now.
He says after awhile, officers forget they’re even there.