Ever wonder why cops yell "quit resisting" as they beat a person who's not resisting? Or why they shoot people who pose no threat? Maybe the answer is right in front of us. Many folks who are given authorization to use deadly force and authority to kidnap and cage citizens — aren't the sharpest tools in the chest. One would think that giving someone so much authority should come with testing their intelligence for competence. However, one would be wrong.
In an analysis conducted by TFTP in 2014, we found that hairstylists in nearly every state are required to have significantly more training than men and women who are given a badge and a gun and sent out into our neighborhoods. Below are just a few examples.
New York has one of the lowest requirements in order to become a licensed cosmetologist. However, it is still 36 % more required training than a cop must undergo, coming in at 1000 hours.
North Carolina police must complete the Basic Law enforcement Training (BLET) Curriculum which consists of a mere 620 hours.
The average North Carolina hairstylist is required to complete 2.4 times more training, 1500 hours, and they will never be tasked with serving a no-knock warrant or shaking down potential drug dealers.
In Chicago, Illinois, their boys in blue have one of the highest requirements for hours completed to become a cop and it comes in at 1000 hours.
Illinois hairdressers are still required to complete 500 more hours than police.
New Mexico, whose track record over the last several years has sparked a special investigation by the Justice Department, ironically lowered their required amount of training to be a police officer in 2014.
The state mandate for basic police training was slashed by more than 25 percent, from 22 weeks to 16 weeks to total 650 hours.
In short, the ones who are tasked with upholding the government's monopoly on violence by any means necessary, are receiving far less training than other professions. This is incredibly dangerous — as is evidenced by thousands of bodies piling up over the years.
A recent report from BBC examined police training throughout other Western countries and found a trend. More training is associated with less killing.
According to the report, the majority of the world's police forces carry firearms, but no developed nation uses them against their citizens as often as officers in the US - and disproportionately against African-Americans, compared with the percentage of the population they represent.
When we look at the training US police officers receive, it is nearly inversely proportionate to the killing. According to a report by the Institute for Criminal Justice Training Reform (ICJTR), American cops receive far less training than most other developed countries. There are around 18,000 police agencies in the US, but with no national standards on training, procedures and timescales vary across the country.
According to the report, on average, US officers spend around 21 weeks training before they are qualified to go on patrol.
While it may be easy for some to write off police killings as a problem of American gun culture, this is not major factor. According to the report, Finland has one the highest gun-ownership rates in Europe, with around 32 civilian firearms per 100 people - but incidents of police shooting civilians are extremely rare. We could only fine 9 examples of police killings in Finland in the last two decades, one of which was an accidental shooting of a prison guard.
What's more, as TFTP reported last month, the majority of police killings involve calls in which there was no crime or that the suspect is only suspected of a non-violent offense.
"Most killings began with police responding to suspected non-violent offenses or cases where no crime was reported," according to a report from PoliceViolenceReport.org
It gets worse.
Of the 1,127 people killed by police in 2020, only 277 of them were suspected of a violent offense. The majority, 658 were suspected of a non-violent offense or no crime at all, while another 121 were killed over a traffic violation.
While there is no direct correlation between lack of training and an increase in killing, it is obvious that the training police are receiving in the United States is at least partially responsible for the massive death toll. Obviously, however, the problem is multi-faceted.
Even when police departments require a college degree in the United States, it doesn't seem to curb the violence. Some states already require college courses for cops like Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey and North Dakota who require a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree, yet those cops are still incredibly violent. Also, there are likely plenty of good cops out there who haven't gone to college or finished high school.
The training requirement is just one of many steps needed to help reform policing. But one of the most drastic and effective steps to take needs to be ending the war on drugs, immediately.
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This would aid in the cultural shift needed to reform policing in America by removing the monetary and often sadistic incentives dangled in front of law enforcement's face like a carrot, that entices them to rob, kidnap, and even sodomize people to "protect" society from an arbitrary substance deemed illegal by the state.
Enforcement of victimless crimes is a major factor in creating unnecessary police interactions which fuels violence. Some people see this and are taking action.
In Maryland, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby recently announced the war on drugs is over in Baltimore and she is making it permanent policy to dismiss all criminal charges for the possession of drugs including heroin.
Mosby didn't stop at drug possession either, she is also dismissing all cases for other victimless crimes like attempted drug distribution, prostitution, open containers and minor traffic offenses.
Mosby began her crusade last year when her office simply refused to keep prosecuting crimes which had no victim. Much to the dismay of the pro-police state crowd, refusing to prosecute people for victimless crimes did not lead to an uptick in criminal activity. In fact, since her policy was implemented a year ago and 1,400 victimless crimes were not prosecuted, crime went down, a lot.
Compared to this same time last year, violent crime in the city has dropped 20% while property crime fell a massive 35% compared to the same period.
“Clearly, the data suggests that there is no public safety value in prosecuting these low-level offenses,” Mosby said.
Since taking office, Mosby's policy has led to an 80% reduction in drug arrests despite possession of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other drugs remaining illegal in the state of Maryland.
What's more, 911 calls for drug use, prostitution and public intoxication fell by 33% compared to the same period before this policy was enacted.
Another major issue in police training is their ability to deal with the mentally ill. There is a reason doctors and nurses don't treat patients with handguns and tasers which is why police shouldn't be responding to mental health crises looking for a fight.
This is why some municipalities have begun removing cops from the situation entirely — and the results are phenomenal.
On June 1, 2020, Denver began the Support Team Assistance Response (STAR) program, which sends a mental health professional and a paramedic to some 911 calls instead of cops. When we first reported on the program in October 2020, their results were fantastic. Now, it seems that departments who continue the old way are doing a disservice to the mentally ill.
According to their latest data, STAR has responded to more than 2,500 calls to 911 in which police would have normally been sent out. The STAR team — armed only with experience and compassion — has never once called police to back them up and no one was ever arrested.
They have settled every single call without killing someone, beating them, ruining their lives, or using violence. Imagine that.
Another type of encounter which turns deadly all too often is the traffic stop.
While most everyone in America commits these same traffic infractions designed for revenue collection instead of safety, most of the people targeted by police for these crimes are the poor and minorities. Often times, officers treat these stops as gateways to fish for drug activity or other victimless crimes. While ending the drug war would have a much more profound effect, some municipalities have kicked around the idea of removing traffic stops from the mission of police officers.
Traffic stops in the land of the free, are a means of bolstering the prison industrial complex by extracting revenue from those who can pay and incarcerating others who cannot.
For those too poor to pay their tickets, routine traffic stops end up in repeated imprisonment due to mounting fines. Cities across the country are running a de facto debtors' prison this way.
When cops aren't routinely extorting and locking people up for petty traffic offenses, they are killing them.
Walter Scott was pulled over for a broken taillight. Scott—unarmed—ran away from the police officer, who pursued and shot him from behind, first with a Taser, then with a gun. Scott was struck five times, “three times in the back, once in the upper buttocks and once in the ear — with at least one bullet entering his heart.”
The list of folks killed over traffic stops is as long as it is infuriating.
This is why the City of Berkeley, California has proposed ending police traffic enforcement. The effects of such a radical shift in policing could be massive.
Though it is a step in the right direction, because government relies on revenue generated from traffic stops to fund itself, this proposal stops short of actually ending the practice of extorting citizens.
Instead, according to the report, Berkeley's City Council will vote on a proposal to create a Department of Transportation and use employees in that department to make traffic stops instead of Berkeley Police officers.
If the effects of this move are anything close to the STAR program, we could be well on our way to revamping the role cops play in the United States. And, the thousands of dead bodies over the last several years, is evidence enough that it is high time this happens.