Councilman at-large David Oh has a plan and a commitment to helping improve community relations with the Philadelphia Police Department: The use of minimum force training for all law enforcement.
“What we hope to do is to get a calm reaction out of police officers not to overreact,” said Oh.
“And I think one of the things that I believe and other people who are proponents of minimal force training believe is that the entity at fault for overreaction is the employer, the city of Philadelphia.”
While police officers go through training, Oh said they don’t necessarily learn about minimum force or no force in non-threatening situations. In addition, while police are called on to de-escalate concerns before they turn hostile, they are not uniform in technique.
“If we recruit someone, we train someone and we authorize someone, and we equip that person with deadly weapons or non-deadly weapons that nonetheless can put someone in a hospital unintentionally,” said Oh. “Things like that, or even kill them. Then the fault is ours if we did not train them. And so training a person to not misjudge a situation.”
In the aftermath of the police-involved killings of George Floyd, which garnered global outrage, and Walter Wallace Jr., who was killed in Philadelphia, Oh feels the time is now to train all active-duty law enforcement on minimum force techniques.
Although he is a huge proponent, Oh’s resolution is receiving pushback from his colleagues, which has stalled the progress and not allowed for many conversations with local law enforcement. Those in resistance are in favor of defunding the police. But, on the other hand, he wants to allocate funding toward proper training to minimal use of force in non-threatening situations.
“I think there’s a group in council that has very much proposed defunding the police,” Oh said.
“And I think that the expectation by their constituency is to go ahead and do that which they have not done; the police budget has increased this entire time. So on my part, I believe people need public service.”
Oh, who has 17 years of jiu-jitsu experience, uses martial arts to compare how minimal force should be used — using minimal harm to curb an issue. He believes getting Philadelphia martial artists to come and speak on behalf of his resolution will help persuade his colleagues to vote in favor of the training.
Oh also says that officers who have been trained have to realize there needs to be a more consistent emphasis taught departmentwide.
“One of the things that were said is police already get this training,” Oh said. “They don’t. They don’t get this training.”
Oh is looking forward to community support in favor of his resolution, so he can move toward getting support from law enforcement.