After an ambush of police in Dallas killed five officers on July 7, the Oak Ridge community rallied around its police department, and Police Chief Jim Akagi said he’s thankful.
People bought lunches for officers anonymously, and residents and organizations dropped off or sent hot meals, cakes, snacks, flowers, and pastries, Akagi said during a July 12 interview. Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch addressed the department during a roll call last week, and someone bought the chief’s lunch as well.
“I cannot thank them enough,” Akagi said of the show of community support. “It’s just the little things: They mean a lot to us.”
Akagi said Oak Ridge is lucky to have a police department with the scale, the talent, and the officers that it has.
But, “the Oak Ridge Police Department is even more lucky to have a community that supports them and has their back,” he said.
There are days where the Police Department doesn’t feel a lot support, Akagi said, but after the Dallas shooting, the community rallied around the department.
“You can’t put a price on that,” he said.
The chief emphasized the importance of de-escalation techniques to Oak Ridge police. Six officers have recently been certified in crisis negotiations. That’s 10 percent of the 60-officer police force, Akagi said. Crisis negotiations can be used before force is applied, he said.
“We are putting a huge emphasis on de-escalation of force techniques,” Akagi said.
At the same time, especially since the massacre of Sandy Hook Elementary School students at a shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, the Oak Ridge Police Department is training and equipping officers to respond tactically.
“The Oak Ridge Police Department is committed to keeping the public safe,” Akagi said. “We are training as hard as we can for the unthinkable.”
The majority of the training is de-escalation prior to using force, including the de-escalation of emotions and threats.
He cited a case two years ago where officers de-escalated a situation that involved a woman who had allegedly pointed a semi-automatic pistol at Oak Ridge police and held the handgun to her own throat and head during a midnight welfare check. Officers fired four shots at the woman after she allegedly pointed the semi-automatic pistol at one of them, but she was not hit. When officers realized that deadly force was no longer needed, one of them left cover and advanced with a non-lethal weapon on someone who had a gun in her hand, Akagi said.
“This department is already very well-trained in how to de-escalate,” he said.
Akagi said the attacks on law enforcement have to stop.
Before the police ambush in Dallas, there had been some national discussion of traffic stops, especially after a widely reported shooting in Minnesota.
In Oak Ridge, Akagi said, those who are pulled over by police should be civil and comply.
“All we’re asking for is compliance,” he said.
The Police Department treats people as well as they want to be treated, he said.
If someone feels their rights are being violated or an officer is not civil, the time to address that is not on the side of the road, he said. You can come in to the Police Department later and address your grievances, he said.
During a traffic stop, “there’s a lot that the officer is concentrating on,” Akagi said.
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