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Rochester Police Department gives glimpse into taser training

ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) -- The fatal Brooklyn Center shooting of Daunte Wright echoes a similar situation that happened in Rochester nearly 20 years ago. Like in the Twin Cities, an officer mistook his handgun for a taser. The officer shot 31-year-old Christofar Atak. He survived the shooting.

"We are constantly evolving in law enforcement," Rochester Police Department (RPD) Chief Jim Franklin said. "Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a tragedy to do that."

One of those tragedies for RPD, is the 2002 incident.

"And this department took a hard lesson at the policies we had in place and the trainings to ensure that that incident never happened again," RPD Capt. John Sherwin said.

Back in the early 2000s, tasers were just starting to get introduced to police departments. Tasers, looked very similarly to hand guns and officers wore them on the same side.

"From what we went to in 2002, to where we are currently, it's night and day," Capt. Sherwin said. "As far as how officers are trained, as far as how they carry and deploy a taser, as well as our policy, is very specific on use as well as training requirements."

Today, tasers are kept holstered on the opposite side of an officer's dominant hand.

When it comes to instructing officers for police work, RPD is one of four departments in the state that has an additional eight week police academy before tackling state mandated training. Officers also have yearly trainings.

"We are dedicated to reassure this community that we are dedicated to continuous improvement and that we are dedicated to the highest level of public safety service to this fine community that we serve," Chief Franklin said.

Additionally, Chief Franklin says that the department reviews every single instance of force use within the department. In the first half of last year, Franklin says there were about 30,000 calls for service, and 71 reports of force. In 2020, RPD had a total of 56,389 calls for service and 140 use of force cases The department logs a use of force if a weapon is taken out of its holster, even if it's not fired.

Franklin says another new training tactic is looking at significant incidents happening around the country, taking them into their department and analyzing what deescalating efforts could be done instead. Take a look at RPD's Accountability Dashboard, here.

FOX 47 reached out to Atak for comment, but he declined.

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Beret Leone

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