More must be done than eliminating bad apples
July 23, 2020
To The Eagle:
The protests against police brutality now rocking the country have many catalysts. Among the more immediate is President Donald Trump and his first Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. Trump predictably eviscerated federal police reforms of the previous administration because they were enacted by his nemesis, Barack Obama.
Obama’s Justice Department had launched 70 investigations into state and local law enforcement agencies and negotiated 40 reform agreements through court enforced consent decrees with troubled police agencies, from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore. The Trump administration scorned and nullified those efforts.
AG Sessions freed local police departments from federal oversight, signaling that police brutality was no longer a problem that the federal government had an interest in solving. President Trump reprehensibly urged a police gathering to “not treat anyone being arrested, gently.” Police officers and departments with histories of terrorizing rather than protecting their communities heard that message loud and clear. Each of America’s 15,500 municipal and county police departments is responsible for screening applicants, training officers and imposing discipline. Some local, often underfunded, departments perform these critical tasks poorly. Racism and rage pervade America’s police ranks to the same degree it pervades the society from which it draws its personnel. Police agencies need to screen out officers afflicted with deeply rooted Jim Crow bias or pathological aggression. US police academies only provided an average of 25 weeks of classroom instruction. Much of that training is to instill a ‘warrior culture’ of aggressive enforcement, with less training in crisis de-escalation and communication skills.
European police are required to attend centralized, nationally funded training facilities, ‘colleges for cops’ for three years where they are effectively taught how to avoid the use of deadly force. This is reflected in Europe’s remarkably lower rates of fatal police encounters.
In my opinion, more must be done than just eliminating the bad apples among the police. The conditions producing them and the systems protecting them must be effectively addressed as well.