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For police accountability and guaranteed quality, police training must take place on a state level, independent of the culture within individual police forces.
(12-07-2014, updated 07-14-2018) It seems that in America many police forces do their own training. So the police teach recruits what they think the police should know and how they should act. Where’s society’s input? Where’s the police accountability?
During my time with the police training school De Boskamp, there were five schools that trained entry-level police in the Netherlands. One of them trained for state police, which was responsible for highways and small towns that were too small to have their own local police force. The other four provided entry-level officers for all the police forces in their part of the Netherlands.
Then there was the Police Academy, a four-year program where students were educated to start in a leadership function as soon as they entered the force. The requirements for going to the Police Academy were the same as those for becoming a librarian, an engineer, etc. All classes, all four years, were focused on their future profession. In America, this would be the equivalent of a masters degree. I seem to remember there was also a part-time route for those who had done the basic training but were now given the opportunity to enter management and policy positions. There was only one academy for the whole country, but it’s a small country.
Smaller schools trained in specialized areas such as criminal investigation, traffic control, environment, etc. Officers would be sent to these schools for additional training while already on the job.
The police academy answered directly to the Minister of the Interior, if I remember correctly. (The Minister of the Interior is responsible for safety and policing, as well as immigration and many other issues. ) The schools determined their curriculum in concert with the police chiefs of all the police forces they serviced. The recruits were already on the books as employees of their respective police forces and they already received a salary. However, the police schools could strongly advise to fire a recruit and that advise was usually followed.
During my last few years working for De Boskamp, another reorganization was taking place, which would place all the various police training and education under one umbrella, ultimately answerable to the Minister of the Interior. It seems that now the Police Academy is the name given to this umbrella organization. The curriculum is put together by experts based on what the police forces want and what is effective, and it is approved by the Minister of the Interior.
So correct me if I’m wrong, Dutchies–I don’t have time to do very detailed research–but it seems that police policy for the country is largely determined by the Minister of the Interior, the mayors and the police chiefs of the large cities and the state police. The police academy no doubt puts in its two cents where its own research and training development can help determine policy.
American police training, on the other hand,varies enormously. Some states provide training while many large police forces have their own police academies. Basic training can take anywhere from twelve weeks to a year to complete. One can also get a bachelor’s degree in Law Enforcement or Criminal Justice from many ‘universities’, which seems to be completely separate from the police academies, but which can help to get in or to move through the ranks faster.
But I want to focus on the individual city police academies. St. Louis, Missouri has its own police academy, as does New York City. The police teaching the police.
Apparently the officer who killed Eric Garner with his chokehold claims that he was taught the chokehold in the police academy, even though it has been illegal in New York since 1994 or thereabouts. And that’s where that aspect of the killing seems to end. I haven’t heard the questions that should come next: The officer doesn’t seem old enough to have gone through his training prior to 1994, so who taught him the chokehold? Why wasn’t the police academy teaching according to the changed law? Who’s responsible?
My suggestion is that law enforcement training should be run at a state level, so that the police training institutes are answerable to the governor, who is answerable to the public. If some cities insist on having their own police academies, then maybe they should ensure police accountability by having a board consisting of members from the different neighborhoods, suburbs or boroughs.
Twenty years ago, a friend’s brother had just entered the Philadelphia police department. He was obviously parroting his trainers or his superiors when he said that most of the people he dealt with were scum and every now and then they just had to be made to ‘eat brick’, which I assume means they had to be slammed up against the wall.
Really? I’m pretty sure the public does not want to be choked, made to ‘eat brick’, shot, or otherwise brutalized. Both the police and police training should be accountable to the public and the public should have a say in what they want from the police, which should be translated into adjustments in training. Right now there seems to be a huge disconnect and the police completely forget who pays their salaries.
This post is Part 3 in the series Police Shooting Black Men and Boys. Here is the next one.
(This post was first published on the blog Resident Alien: Being Dutch in America, under the title: “Police Training within the Police Hierarchy: A Bad Idea”, 12-07-2014)
Header image: In: Voskuil, Koen and Chris Klomp. “Misdaad daalt opnieuw”. (AD Binnenland) AD, 01-03-18. https://www.ad.nl/binnenland/misdaad-daalt-opnieuw-politie-jaagt-het-vaakst-op-18-jarige~a32f7a1e/