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PD Changes Training Policy After Tragic Recruit Fatality

PD Changes Training Policy After Tragic Recruit Fatality

Virginia Pilot via YellowBrix

March 16, 2011

NORFOLK, VA – Recruits eager to join the Police Department will no longer have to endure strikes to the head – or defend themselves in training when they are exhausted.

The changes will help prevent recruit injuries and improve the department, Norfolk’s acting chief of police and a panel of experts said Tuesday during a news conference.

The new procedures follow the death of John Kohn, who was injured in training in December and is the only recruit to ever die in Norfolk police training.

A four-member panel reviewed the department’s defensive-tactics training. Acting police Chief Sharon Chamberlin announced its findings.

Other changes:

• Instructors are now receiving training from medical professionals on how to recognize head trauma.

• All recruits in upcoming academies will learn from a medical professional about head trauma and the importance of reporting it, whether it involves themselves or a fellow recruit.

• Defensive tactics training will be done in one- or two-hour segments to reduce fatigue-related injuries.

Kohn, 40, died Dec. 18, having never regained consciousness after a series of blows to the head from an instructor and a head-to-head collision with another recruit nine days earlier. Earlier in that week of training he had been knocked down by an instructor and another recruit.

Defensive tactics instructors and training academy staff attended a preliminary class on head injuries on Feb. 18, Chamberlin said. The training will continue, she said. Before becoming the department’s acting chief of police earlier this month, Chamberlin in her role as senior assistant chief oversaw the city’s police training.

“Our goal is to become better,” Chamberlin said. “We are going to take these panel findings and recommendations and reshape what we’re doing.”

Dr. Barry Knapp, an emergency room physician in Hampton Roads and the medical director for Norfolk Fire-Rescue, said the panel’s findings are an important step toward making recruits safe, while still ensuring they learn to block attacks and defend themselves.

“I think this is a tremendous opportunity for the Norfolk Police Department and specifically its training division to be a role model across the country on how one handles safely training their recruits,” said Knapp, who served on the panel.

Panel members want police staff and recruits to be aware that even minor, repetitive head trauma “can result in catastrophic outcomes,” Knapp said.

Chamberlin would not directly address questions about Leldon Sapp, the instructor who hit Kohn in the head just before he blacked out.

“I’m going to address the current panel recommendations and move forward from here,” she said. She gave similar answers when pressed by TV reporters about Sapp’s employment status, what she thought of a video showing him punching Kohn, and whether the level of force used was appropriate when considering the department’s protocol at the time.

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  • Tigerstripe_002_max50


    over 3 years ago


    The story in this and the follow up artical paint sounds utterly disgusting. However after viewing the video it does not seem very violent. The collission shown was very violent and painful however.
    I can say that setting a class to run in and out of the same door was a mistake. An Instructor and Observer should not Ask a man if he is ok. They should Insist on checking pupils after ever collision and let it be known that saying you are hurt does not qualify as failure of the class.
    I can also say that if you want to train me by striking me, expect to also be striken. If I feel any Ego or what-else. I am going below the belt or to the throat. Accept that if you want me to accept your blows. Be it military or police trainning, I am hitting you to cause damage if you want to hit me.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    In our department we were trained to never ever hit anyone in the head in our defensive training.Not even the bad guy.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    Rest in peace Sir.

  • Img_20101026_203843_max50


    over 3 years ago


    As a member of the norfolk police department and a graduate of a recent academy where I had endured a broken nose due to a headstrike I do agree with the changes however I do not regret the training I received. We train to reality, a suspect isn't going to give up because we are tired or hurting. But I look forward to working with the new recruits and seeing how the daily training will keep them proficient. God bless you Kohn and your my thoughts and prayers daily.

  • In_remembrance_of_oakland_pd_max50_max50_max50_max50_max50


    over 3 years ago


    The training methods used needed to be changed along with the attitude of the instructor responsible for this incident. The city is still going to take a hit for this preventable tragedy.

  • Newpatch_sq90_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Wait till the civil action is filed by the family. Ouch.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago

    Our support for the Norfolk Police Department and the training division! RIP Recruit Kohn.

  • 02-17-07_0940_1__max50


    over 3 years ago


    R I P KOHN

  • 1393794_10151798561878138_392793313_n_max50


    over 3 years ago



  • M_a6d52838fcaf76871a3f162b66e0b424_max600_max50


    over 3 years ago


    no protective gear??

  • Eagle_rwb_max50


    over 3 years ago


    This sounds too barbaric to be a legitimate training. I have no doubts that "fight for your life" is important, but STRIKING THE HEAD IS ABSURD! The brain, the most important part of our existence, does not need to be struck for training.

    There needs to be some responsibility taken by the people who developed this training regimen.

  • Pug_max600_max50


    over 3 years ago



  • Clone_trooper_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Some mistakes were made, but you have to give them the proper training.

  • Police_link_badge_max50


    over 3 years ago



  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    We have to be able to fight. But it is the responsibility of the training staff to train as safely as possible. I watched the video and have my own opinion about the instructor and his supervisor(s).

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