A training manual obtained by PAR raises questions about what cops are being taught and how they handle encounters with civilians. PAR speaks with Jaelyn Cedillo of Pueblo, CO, whose brother was gunned down by Pueblo sheriffs.
This is a rush transcript and may contain errors. It will be updated.
Taya Graham: Hello. My name is Taya Graham and welcome to the Police Accountability Report. As I never get tired of saying, this show has a single purpose, holding the politically powerful institution of policing accountable. To do so, we don’t just focus on the bad behavior of individual cops. Instead, we take a critical look at the underlying political economy that makes police misbehavior and brutality possible. And today we’re going to explore one facet of that system that has an oversized influence on how police react in critical situations, but gets less attention than it deserves. I’m talking about training and in this case, a controversial training program called Bulletproof Warrior, an infamous fear-focused style of police training that encourages police violence against citizens and is taught by David Grossman, the creator of a disturbing ideology called Killology. We’ve obtained a copy of one of the manuals used to teach this use of force approach, and we’re going to delve into the details on the show. And we also speak with the sister of Jesse Cedillo, whose 20 year old brother was shot to death by Pueblo, Colorado police.
But before I get started, I want you watching to know that if you have evidence of police misconduct, please email it to us privately at firstname.lastname@example.org and please like and share and comment on our videos. You know I read your comments and appreciate them. And of course you can message me directly at tayasbaltimore on Facebook or Twitter.
Okay, we’ve got that out of the way. Now, one of the most common solutions to police brutality offered by politicians and police unions is training. The idea is that if officers spend enough time in a classroom exposed to deescalation techniques and anti-bias training, American policing will be able to overcome its recent history of brutality and senseless in-custody deaths that had led the nation to the precipice of revolt, but a document shared with this show raises questions about the idea that training can change police behavior, because there is a vast training industry that offers an entirely different perspective than what reform proponents would want you to believe.
This training manual provided to us by one of our viewers, Stephanie London, reveals in part the origins of the mentality that makes American police so violent and so apt to shoot citizens. Let’s remember American police are one of the most deadly institutions per capita in the world. The UK newspaper The Guardian reported that American police killed the same number of people in 24 days that police in Wales, England killed in 24 years. In fact, one troubling aspect of American policing and use of force is how consistently deadly it is. Year over year, police kill roughly over a thousand people, and year over year, roughly one third to a quarter are unarmed, according to a database assembled by the Washington Post. Some experts attribute this seemingly disproportionate use of force to the American obsession with, and high rate of, gun ownership and guns, but there are also questions about the role training plays in the prevalence of police killings.
And to explore this idea in more depth, we’re going to start with this, a training manual used to prepare officers to deal with violence that raises some troubling questions about how cops view the people they’re supposed to protect and serve. It’s called The Bulletproof Warrior and it consists of a series of graphs and diagrams related to the use of violence and the police response to it. We obtained it from a source, Stephanie London, who forwarded it to us because she was concerned about the technique it uses to train officers, particularly how it conditions cops to look for signs of a pending attack. Take for example, this page, which lists a series of indicators or cues that a civilian might be planning to use violence. The list is supposed to provide guidelines for anticipating when, and if traffic stops could turn deadly, but let’s take a look at the criteria.
It’s confusing to say the least. Among them, hands in pockets, scanning, target glance, hands to face, and the more ambiguous lack of movement or actual dramatic movement. Then there are dialogue cues, repeating a question, stalled utterances, conversational cadence changes, and repeating a question. In short, just about every gesture one could make during an encounter with police could be construed as a precursor to violence. If indeed this is how police are trained, are we surprised that so many routine encounters turn deadly? To help me unpack this document and its implications, I’m joined by my cohost and reporting partner, Stephen Janis. Stephen, thank you for joining me.
Stephen Janis: Taya, Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Taya Graham: Stephen, first, you reviewed this document and there’s a consistent theme throughout. What is it?
Stephen Janis: It strikes me as highly militaristic. You look at the person who created Killology, David Grossman, and he was a Lieutenant Colonel in the US army. So it seems to me that they’re giving police military style training, training to kill rather than to police the law. In fact, our intern Kate Turner had a very interesting analysis. I’m going to read a little bit of it here. The emphasises on the will to survive and a natural survival instinct seem to be connected to an emphasis on a lot of police departments placed on self-defense when they defend police brutality. Based on this manual, it seems to me that police officers are taught to understand themselves as always on the defensive and victims of circumstance. So I think you can see it puts police in this sort of aggressive mode.
Taya Graham: There’s one part which I think is interesting, which I think makes the case that we civilians are conditioned because of exposure to the media. Can you talk about that?
Stephen Janis: I think what’s interesting is the conditioning of the mind, the brain scans, which show the difference between a brain that has not been conditioned by video games and a brain that has been, and what it kind of implies is that we’ve all been infected by media and that we’re all prone to violence and that we lack sort of the capacity to make rational judgments because of this being saturated with violent games, violent video, violent movies, and sort of makes it seem like we’re all being programmed to kill. It’s bizarre.
Taya Graham: Now you reached out to the people who published this manual, what did they say?
Stephen Janis: I called the number on the manual. I also sent emails to every email. The emails bounced back. A woman answered the phone at Calibre Press and said, “How did you get ahold of this?” And I said, “Really, that’s not the point. We just want someone to comment.” She said someone would call me back and she has not. So we’re going to keep reaching out, but so far, no response.
Taya Graham: Finally, this is not the first time you’ve reported on military style police training. Can you talk about your investigation of a program called Diamond Training?
Stephen Janis: In the late aughts, Baltimore City Police adopted a training program called Diamond Training. And it was taught by a former soldier from Fallujah, a Lieutenant also who fought in Fallujah, and was based on tactics used in Fallujah called “No Greater Friend, No Greater Foe”. And they said the streets of Baltimore are like Fallujah, where you have to be militaristic, you have to use military style training and you have to use military style tactics, and it was very controversial.
Taya Graham: To better understand the training, take a look at this video from its creator, David Grossman. Now, although these trainings aren’t part of every standard police academy, his books have been translated into several languages and he told Mother Jones that they are required reading at the FBI Academy and many law enforcement agencies. He’s lectured at West point and claims to have conducted trainings for every federal law enforcement agency, every branch of the armed forces, and cops in all 50 states. For more than 19 years, he’s been on the road, leading seminars and trainings nearly 300 days a year.
David Grossman: Some people feel bad they don’t feel bad. Some people feel bad they feel good about it. One crusty old detective came up. She said, “Colonel, you’re the first one in 20 years to tell me it’s okay to not feel bad about killing that guy.”
Taya Graham: It’s clear from reviewing The Bulletproof Warrior that concerns about the link between training and police brutality are warranted. The idea that police are combatants somehow at war with the civilian population prone to violence are not borne out by the numbers. Let’s remember that while American police have killed roughly 1000 civilians a year for at least the last decade, the number of police officers killed by gunfire has never exceeded roughly 50 during the same period. In fact, policing doesn’t even make the top 10 most dangerous jobs list. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs like truck driver, roofer and forester are far more lethal, and yet the training materials we’ve reviewed would lead any reasonable person to think that violence against police was an epidemic, that every encounter was fraught with the threat of a sociopathic public bent on killing cops to avoid a traffic ticket.
And perhaps it’s that mentality which led to the tragic killing of the brother of my next guest. His name was Jesse Cedillo. He was only 20 years old and his death on March 14th was captured on the video you’re watching now. Police say they received a call he had participated in a carjacking, an accusation his family says is baseless. Nevertheless, shortly after the call, he encountered police and then this. Let’s watch.
Speaker 4: Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit, I got that on video, man.
Taya Graham: As you can see, he has his hands up at the time of the shooting. Police say he was armed, but have yet to produce the gun nor have they publicly released the body camera footage of the officer who shot him. To discuss the lack of evidence and why his family say this shooting was unjustified, I’m joined by his sister, Jaelyn Cedillo. Jaelyn, thank you so much for joining us and for sharing your brother’s story while your family is still grieving. We appreciate you talking with us today. Jaelyn, how did you find out your brother had been shot by police?
Jaelyn Cedillo: It’s a crazy story, actually. I didn’t know it was my brother until seven hours later. There was a video posted on Facebook and I actually watched that video going to work and I had no idea it was my brother. The news channel had posted what the neighbor had recorded without a name or anything. I watched it literally going to work. And then seven hours later, my sister called me frantically and she said, I finally got her to speak so I could understand what she was saying, and she told me that my brother had been killed by the police. And so that video that I had watched that morning just totally came into my mind.
Taya Graham: Now, I’m sorry to ask about the specifics of what happened to your brother, but it appears that he had his hands up and had surrendered. What happened next?
Jaelyn Cedillo: I actually watched the body cam. What a lot of people don’t see in that video, if you watched it already, he in fact surrendered and complied with the command. Behind that wall, it kind of looks like my brother is running towards the officer, but in fact, that’s not the case at all. There’s a white truck that’s parked a little far back in that driveway. The officer proceeds to try to find my brother’s whereabouts. He couldn’t find him. Eventually he did see him behind the truck. He told my brother, “Come out with your hands up where I could see them.” My brother came out from a crouched position, he had his hands up, and literally the officer just initially started shooting him as soon as my brother came out with his hands up. So when you see my brother running, that is him trying to escape the fire of the bullets. And then my brother just sees a clear view. He goes, and then he puts himself into a fetal position and the officer continues to shoot him while he’s on the ground.
Taya Graham: Now, something that was very disturbing to you is that they left his body uncovered for seven hours, that they treated him like evidence, not like a human being. What happened exactly?
Jaelyn Cedillo: Yes. They left his body out there for seven hours handcuffed. They turned away the paramedics, so someone signed an AMR to release the paramedics. My brother was not able to do that because he was obviously deceased, so someone else on scene had to do that. That’s why the paramedics did not take him. They gave my family a call. They hurried up and cleaned up their mess that they made. And then we went to the scene. It was all cleared out, about 4:30 in the afternoon, in the evening.
Taya Graham: Did they leave his body out for the neighborhood to see?
Jaelyn Cedillo: The neighbor who recorded the whole thing for us, his seven year old son, he saw it and he said, “Dad, why did they shoot him so many times? Why did they do that to him?” And all of the kids in the neighborhood, they’re all cautioned in their neighborhood. They can’t leave. They can’t go. So for seven hours, everyone had to be there and they had to witness that.
Taya Graham: What did the police department tell you about his death? Why were the police chasing your brother?
Jaelyn Cedillo: The only person who contacted our family is the coroner. They came to my mom’s door. They knocked on the door. But other than that, all we have heard from… And it was actual the Sheriff’s Department, who was the sheriff officer, who shot him, but Pueblo Police was on scene as well as Denver Police, which is very odd because that’s in a whole other county, but they haven’t investigated our case at all. But I did see in the pictures that in fact, a Denver police officer was on scene. So yeah, all they put out was false and lying articles. They painted a narrative that my brother was a huge criminal and he did so much that morning. They haven’t proved a single thing. They haven’t even proved that my brother took that car, that they are saying that he took. There’s no video proof of that. There’s no video evidence of a gun, because the body cam that I watched, he had absolutely no weapon.
Taya Graham: Are the police involved in his death going to be investigated or charged with any crime? For example, they could be investigated for excessive use of force.
Jaelyn Cedillo: Right now, the DA has not made a decision. As far as we know, we don’t know anything. When we went to the meeting with the DA, he did not want to show me and my sister the actual body cam. He only showed my mom and my, at first. He did not think that me and my sister were going to be there at the meeting. And so they walked out and they saw me and my sister and he was trying to say, “Oh, you guys are too young, yada, yada, yada, you can’t see this.” We’re like, “Excuse me, but I have my own home and I have a child and I own my own car. I am not a child. I can watch this for myself and I need to watch this for myself.” So finally he let us, and they were super nervous showing me and my sister this footage, mind you. I was pretty much interrogating the DA’s office without being disrespectful. But I’m very observative and I have a lot of things to say, and so the things he was answering back, he was very nervous. He didn’t know what to say.
Taya Graham: Now you have asked for help from your local city council. Have you received any?
Jaelyn Cedillo: Nope. Me, my mom, and my siblings have went out and protested. The last week we protested almost all week, every single day. My mom went the first two days and then we went the last couple of days, right outside of the DA’s office, right outside of the Sheriff’s office, and right outside of the officer’s office at the County Jail. But that’s literally all we’ve had. We do have an attorney and they are very great. They have been working on our case the second we hired them, but we have not had any help from anyone besides somewhat of our community who wants to step in and do the marches with us, but pretty much we’ve just been by ourselves for this.
Taya Graham: I think the case of Jesse Cedillo is illustrative of how our discussion of use of force by American police is constrained by legal precedent, because every discussion revolves around the legal concept which demands an officer only has to have reasonable fear for his or her life to pull the trigger. That legal threshold has been used to judge fatal police encounters for decades and has prescribed a value of human life that is both troubling and limited, which is what makes The Bulletproof Warrior manual so alarming. At the very least the diagrams and bullet points seem to make the case that a variety of normal human reactions to police officer are simply a pretext for violence, that, as you recall, making no movement or making dramatic movement indicates the same possible outcome and that a so called “felon’s stretch” is just a precursor to a deadly act.
Are we really surprised when police shoot and kill citizens under questionable circumstances if this is how they are trained to think? Should we really be shocked when gunfire erupts during a routine traffic stop if officers have a mentality that almost any behavior could signal a fatal response? Take the case of Philando Castile. As we all remember, the Minneapolis resident was pulled over for a broken taillight in July of 2016. Castile calmly told the officer he possessed a gun, which he legally owned and had a permit to carry, but as Castiel’s fiancee recorded the encounter on Facebook Live, Minneapolis police officer Yanez opened fire, killing the father of two without provocation. Yanez was charged with manslaughter, but was acquitted after a trial. He was separated from the department and received a $45,000 settlement when he resigned.
But it’s not just the questionable legal outcome that is relevant on our show today, because it’s how officer Yanez was trained that makes this case as relevant as ever. That’s because officer Jeronimo Yanez attended The Bulletproof Warrior, a two-day training taught by Grossman and his colleague, Jim Glennon, two years prior to the shooting, a fact that surfaced during the trial. The cop, which had stunned the nation by pulling the trigger and killing a man who was clearly complying with the law, had been trained in the principles of fear. But I don’t want to end the show on the note that any hope for change is futile. Instead, I want to show you this. It’s a mural painted in our backyard in Annapolis, Maryland that reveals just how much the public’s acceptance of police use of force is changing. The mural is a memorium to Breonna Taylor, the 26 year old medical technician who was shot to death by Louisville police during a no-knock warrant in March.
Taylor was sleeping in her bed when police stormed into her house. The warrant was tied to a suspect who had already been arrested. A lawsuit filed by the family says police did not announce themselves before breaking down the door. When her fiance, Kenneth Walker, fired a single shot, police returned fire with roughly 20 bullets, killing Taylor almost instantly. Earlier this week, the family filed additional court papers with a stunning revelation. After Taylor lay on the floor of her home bleeding to death, the police did not render aid. The officer who shot her was rushed to an ambulance and immediately received care, but not Taylor. In fact, the lawsuit also alleges that the no-knock warrant had an even more insidious motive. According to her lawyers, Taylor’s apartment complex was smack in the middle of a major development project backed by the city. Her lawyers pointed to the fact, police served five warrants in the area, and that was the site of a major $120 million push for gentrification. Their theory? That police activity was meant to clear the way so that rich developers could create an oasis of wealth for upscale home owners.
As we look at the images of the mural painted in Breonna’s memory, we should consider the underlying truths that these allegations reveal, how often inexplicable police behavior is easily understood if we look through the lens of wealth inequality and economic despair. Let’s remember, in the case of Philando Castile or Breonna Taylor, police weren’t shooting at high priced lawyers or neoliberal technocrats. They weren’t using battering rams in rich enclaves or gated communities. No, they were focused on the large swath of America that has been the primary focus on minor arrests and nuisance charges, people who can’t afford high profile lawyers or have access to mainstream media platforms to mount a defense.
Consider the investigation by the Department of Justice into the Baltimore City Police Department. It found that the BPD used racist and unconstitutional tactics by making illegal arrests and retaliating against residents who spoke out against it. But there was one fact in the report that is illustrative of the point we’ve made throughout this show about policing. Investigators found that 44% of all illegal arrests were made in a single district in Baltimore. That is tens of thousands of illegal stops and detainments were executed in one specific area. And where was it? Well, without giving a completely detailed geography, it was here in West Baltimore, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, an area that has suffered from a lack of investment and resources and has one of the highest rates of poverty in the country. I think that says all that needs to be said about American policing. The question is, what are we going to do about it?
I would like to thank my guest Jaelyn Cedillo for being willing to speak to us about her brother’s death while her family is still grieving. Jaelyn, thank you so much for your time. And of course I would like to thank Stephen Janis for his intrepid reporting, his investigative work, writing, and editing on this piece. Thank you so much, Stephen.
Stephen Janis: Thank you so much for having me today. I appreciate it.
Taya Graham: And of course I would be remiss if I didn’t thank friend of the show and support Nollie D for her help. Thank you, Nollie D. And I want you watching to know that if you have evidence of police misconduct or brutality, please reach out to us and we might be able to help. Please email us your tips privately at email@example.com and share with us your evidence of police brutality. You can also reach out to us on Facebook or Instagram at Police Accountability Report or at Eyes on Police on Twitter. And of course you can message me directly at tayasbaltimore on Twitter and Facebook. And please like, share, and comment and do all those things that help us. I read your comments. I appreciate them and I answer your questions whenever I can. My name is Taya Graham. I’m your host of the Police Accountability Report. Please be safe out there.