Forest Park police have expanded the number of days they receive training this year, so as to better accommodate staff schedules and “drive home major concepts,” according to Forest Park Lieutenant Chris Chin, who leads training for the department. He said police did not increase the number of days they receive training because of an incident involving Officer Scott McClintock, who caused a social media stir in April after a resident posted on Facebook that she saw him slap a juvenile shoplifter who allegedly spit on him. 

“It was not because before it was lacking,” Chin said of the department’s training. “The state gives out minimum standards to follow, so we have to meet those minimums, but we go above and beyond that.” 

Chin said federal and state laws dictate most of the department’s policies and drills, and “a lot of the training that we get trickles down from the military, the war zones.” 

At least once a year, he said, all officers must complete an online program conducted by the Illinois Training and Standards Board, and two required by the police department’s insurance firm. The sessions focus on state and federal laws that dictate, for example, the parameters of force officers can use, depending on the situation and subject. Chin said he wasn’t sure if the online trainings outlined what officers should do in situations where they were spit on. 

Every year, the department also holds in-house training, and this year they expanded it from three to four days. All police received training for two days in April and will undergo another two days in the fall.

“Think about crawl, walk, run,” Chin said. “We’re crawling and walking in the spring and running in the fall, so building upon skills and knowledge.”    

The first day, he said, police covered basic patrol tactics and what to do in active shooter situations. The second day, officers focused on laws governing police use of force — as well as department policy — as well as taser recertification, de-escalation tactics and sexual harassment training. 

This fall, police will review how to encounter people who may be suffering from a mental health issue, as well as “rescue task force,” which outlines how fire and police should coordinate service during active shootings. Officers will also review tactical medicine, how to treat injured police and pedestrians. On the fourth day, police will go to an outdoor shooting range, construct various walls, and practice how to respond in active shooter situations by moving through hallways and doorways. In some situations, they will have to fire at a subject at the end of the enclosure. In others, they will not. Police will also review tactical medicine training on the fourth day. 

Chin called use of force a “major” part of the annual officer training and said it’s mentioned in almost every drill. He added that the instruction does outline what defensive tactics are appropriate although he wasn’t sure if it specifically addressed how police should react to being spit upon. 

“It’s difficult to say how someone should act if they’re being battered. It’s such a situational thing,” he said, adding that he could not comment on whether it was right for Officer McClintock to slap the woman after he was spit on since there were too many unknown variables. 

“I can relate to what Officer McClintock was going through in that situation,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. She’s the one that was spitting, and she’s the one doing that to a police officer. Does she have a right to do that?” 

The Chicago woman, 17, was charged with aggravated battery and retail theft, according to an Oak Park police report. Earlier in the day, she had attempted to steal approximately $341 worth of clothing from The Gap in Oak Park.

Chin said the goal of training is to make much of police operations instinctual. 

“Instincts are based off what your training and experiences are. That whole ‘sixth sense, the hairs on the back of your neck standing up,’ it’s probably for a reason,” Chin said. “We don’t have the luxury of time. So a lot of the times, the things that police officers do are reactive.”

Going forward, Chin said the department plans to focus on educating the community. He encouraged community members to sign up for ride-alongs with officers at the police station. In May, he said Neighborhood Watch attendees also used a simulator that police use in deadly force training, which allowed them to point guns at a projector screen and react to simulations of real situations. This device, called the Meggitt Training System, is intended to educate the public about what being an officer is actually like. Neighborhood Watch meetings are conducted at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday every month on the lower level of Forest Park Village Hall, 517 Desplaines Ave. 

“We always hear the argument, ‘Well how come you didn’t just shoot the gun out of their hand? If you train guys so much and you’re supposed to be ‘expert marksmen,’ why don’t you just shoot the gun out of their hand?'” Chin said. “If you’re not familiar with firearms and how police work, it’s very difficult [to understand].”