Police officers from Summit, Eagle, Lake and Clear Creek counties attended a training session last week put on by District Attorney Bruce Brown. The training, which took place April 10, was designed for police agencies within the Fifth Judicial District.
The purpose of the training was to familiarize officers, particularly those new on the job, with courtroom procedures.
"Law enforcement officers are often called on to testify in court hearings and trials and need to be aware of court procedures, legal requirements and their responsibilities," Brown said in a news release.
About 30 officers attended the training, including representatives from the Breckenridge, Silverthorne and Frisco police departments, the Summit County Sheriff's Office and the Colorado State Patrol.
The idea for the training arose from discussions between Brown and the various police chiefs around the time that Brown was running for office, according to Silverthorne police chief Mark Hanschmidt.
While previously the district attorney might catch an officer to prepare him or her shortly before entering the courtroom, Hanschmidt and the others hoped that more might be done.
Hanschmidt attended Brown's training along with five officers from the Silverthorne department. He was pleased with what he saw.
"They put on a great class for our officers," he said. "They didn't hold anything back. If an officer wasn't addressing the courtroom properly, they called them on it. If an officer wasn't dressed properly for court, they called him on it. It was a really good learning experience for a lot of our younger officers."
The training included reviewing common actions of law enforcement, like creating a report or record that can be observed on paper during case reviews.
The training also covered the meaning behind various attorney objections and what effect those have after a judge has made a ruling. Officers practiced writing and presenting reports, and sitting on the witness stand and being examined by the prosecutor.
"They're learning the ins and outs of the courtroom. They're learning what to expect when they're on trial," Hanschmidt said. "Everybody sees it on TV, but when you're sitting in the hot seat, it's a different story."
Summit County Sheriff John Minor, who also attended, said that he, too, appreciated the real-life aspect of the training, which could apply to new and experienced officers alike.
"It's always a good refresher," he said. "It's simple things, even like projecting your voice and making eye contact and making sure you wrote a factual well-written report and that you know the contents of that report, so all those things. It's a good reminder for veteran officers, too."
Both Minor and Hanschmidt said that a good relationship and strong connection with the district attorney's office is important.
"It's always critical to work with your district attorney," Minor said. "DAs, judges and cops will sometimes disagree and that's normal, that's the checks and balances in the system. But basically what we want to do is to serve the victim, and that goes from good on-scene investigating, knowing the case law, writing a good report and testifying it in court - it's a package deal. Having a good relationship with the DA is vital."
Minor and Hanschmidt said that while the recent training went well and addressed the important issues, they would be interested in similar training events in the future. Currently, Brown's office has scheduled additional trainings in the coming weeks for officers in Eagle County.