Stop Training Police Like They’re Joining the Military – The Atlantic

Police killings are of course not the only fuel for the mass protests. Beyond the deaths of Americans such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor lie countless other large and small indignities—the massive stop-and-frisk program practiced by the NYPD until a court order declared it unconstitutional, the needlessly aggressive execution of warrants—that also fall most heavily on people of color and the poor.But many of the most egregious police abuses are avoidable, and the anger over them has created an opportunity for real police reform. The nation must jettison paramilitary approaches to policing. That means moving beyond shallow critiques of “police militarization,” most of which focus narrowly on federal programs allowing the transfer of military equipment to police, and looking at subtler and more entrenched aspects of police culture as well.Wesley Lowery: The breaking pointTo be sure, federal military-surplus transfers like those through the Defense Department’s 1033 Program do little good, and much harm: Police departments obtaining used Army filing cabinets at cost isn’t cause for concern, but there’s no earthly reason for small-town cops to wear military fatigues, ride around in mine-resistant Humvees, or carry bayonets. Studies suggest that police departments that receive such equipment see no measurable improvement in officer safety or crime rates, but greater quantities do seem to correlate with higher rates of officer-involved shootings and reduced public trust.Federal programs that allow the provision of military equipment to domestic police departments are only part of the problem, however. Although tightening the restrictions on such programs would be a good first step, the training that police recruits go through must also be reformed.We’re living in a dark moment: President Donald Trump’s threat to send in active-duty federal troops to quell protests further blurred the line between policing and the military. But some hopeful signs have emerged.For one, some progressive police leaders are questioning the value of paramilitary academies. In Washington State, for instance, former King County Sheriff Sue Rahr, now the head of the state’s Criminal Justice Training Commission, has pioneered an academy-training approach centered on a vision of police as guardians, not warriors. Rahr calls her training method “LEED,” for “Listen and Explain with Equity and Dignity.” Instead of an emphasis on yelling and standing at attention, her recruits are trained to engage others in courteous conversation, and are evaluated during role-play exercises on their ability to listen, show empathy, explain their actions, de-escalate tense situations, and leave everyone they encounter “with their dignity intact.”

Source: Stop Training Police Like They’re Joining the Military – The Atlantic