Sunday, April 4, 2021

Training for Peace-Keeping

Within a few days of when Derek Chauvin killed (murdered, executed) George Floyd late last May, we knew that Chauvin was a field training officer (FTO) in the Minneapolis Police Department, and that he was still the trainer of one of the rookie cops on the scene. Which led and still leads most people to ask, What the hell is the MPD training its cops to do?

Today the Star Tribune's Libor Jany had a story about that very question, headlined MPD's mentor cops get little supervision. I recommend the whole article, but here are the parts I couldn't help underlining (!) as I was reading it.

  • "Over his 19 years with MPD, Chauvin...racked up 17 misconduct complaints and was involved in four on-duty shootings or other fatal encounters." [Remember, the average cop in this country never draws their gun.]
  • "Former...officials said...the problem is that there are no hard and fast rules about who can be a training officer. Those selected...have to complete a week of training...but then tend to stay...for years with little oversight and less accountability."
  • A Japanese-American trainee sued the department last year about harassment by FTOs, "including one time [when a FTO] allegedly chastised him for refusing to slap a drunk man during an arrest in north Minneapolis, saying, 'You missed a free slap.'"
  • A retired deputy chief wondered how much the rookie cops' trainers had affected them in their interactions with George Floyd. In an interview, he told Jany it was notable "how quickly their arrest of Floyd over a fake $20 bill escalated into [Officer] Lane yelling at Floyd to 'show me your [expletive] hands!'"
  • Getting so-called "good cops" to be FTOs appears to be part of the problem. It doesn't pay more, except as overtime, and so it may attract only people who are attracted to the power trip. (It seems to me that a department would have to build a teaching culture around it as well as pay more for it. And since real teaching is likely to be perceived as feminized, there may be some other elements of the problem that need to be addressed.)
  • There's a peer-intervention training program for police departments called Ethical Policing Is Courageous, which started in New Orleans. Saint Paul participates in it, but Minneapolis does not.

Near the end of the story, Jany delivers what may be part of the real policy solution:

A recent report by the Council on Criminal Justice Task Force on Policing found that most U.S. police training lacks focus, is too short, uses ineffective teaching methods and is out of touch with both community safety priorities and current research about what works to minimize bias and use of force.

The report also found that most officers receive an average of six months of training, far less than is required of their counterparts in other developed countries, and that standards vary widely among states. Training requirements for officers are on par with those for professions that require little human interaction, such as pest control and water-well drilling.

The study's authors, which included law enforcement, civil rights and community leaders, made a number of recommendations and called on the federal government to adopt national standards to assure appropriate training for all officers. (emphasis added)

All of this made me think of a Star Tribune op-ed by Melvin Carter, Jr. from last summer. (He's the father of Saint Paul's mayor — who is Melvin Carter III.) Carter Jr. is a retired Saint Paul cop, and the headline of his article was Define policing, once again, as a peacekeeping endeavor:

The term “law enforcement” has hijacked the peacekeeping mission over the past century. It emphasizes force and implies suppression and oppression, which I consider a betrayal. I cringe at its every utterance, especially when hearing police officials use the term in opposition to “community policing.”

The goals of community policing are:
  1. To prevent crime and disorder as an alternative to suppression by military force.
  2. To depend on public approval and to maintain public respect.
  3. To achieve police objectives by means of public cooperation.
  4. To earn public trust and cooperation, which declines proportionately with the use of force.
  5. To nurture public favor by means of fairness and good-faith services.
  6. To always use the minimum degree of force, and only after persuasion, advice and warnings fail.
  7. To recognize that police are the public and that the public are the police.
  8. To refrain from corruption.
  9. To evaluate police effectiveness as the presence of peace, not on the visible use of aggressive enforcement.

I imagine I would not agree with Mr. Carter on everything, but for sure he's on a better track than 90-some percent of his former colleagues and coworkers. The thing I know I can trust about him is that when he says "the public," he means the whole public, and not just white people — which is what way too many people mean by "the public."

Getting rid of qualified immunity, the training changes recommended by the criminal justice task force... there's a big range of changes needed, including the funding changes that fall under that abused heading "defund the police." Culture changes and training are part of it.

No comments: