Failing to Reform Law Enforcement Training is the Leading Cause of Community Distrust

On June 24, 2017, CNN’s Emanuella Grinberg discussed why police shooting trials rarely end in convictions in a CNN report.  The narrative outlined perspectives from different players in the debate, but the competing highlight she raised was the conflict between agencies experiencing a recruiting deficit that limits their ability to ensure public safety versus the minimization of continual training so active officers can try to fill the streets as much as possible. The exact language she used was, “training is often the first thing to be sacrificed.”

In the legal profession, and many other professional fields, members are required to continue training and improving their education in order to hold a license, or their privilege to participate in the profession is forfeited.  This ensures members maintain awareness of crucial changes in their profession and the communities they serve so they remain ethical and competent, and the work they do remains relevant.

Law enforcement training reform should necessarily follow this model of training and educational requirements.  Active officers, potential recruits, and aspiring recruits must be required to similarly improve their awareness of crucial social and political issues that are changing the way the law should be enforced and the way officers should be engaging with their communities.  It is vehemently unacceptable for any agency, its officers, its administrators, or its supporters to perpetually ignore the need for continuing education and adequate training, which should never be sacrificed.  There must be stiffer consequences when the actions of law enforcement officers are a stunning portrait of unethical and incompetent.  There is no adequate balance between sacrificing safety for everyone in your community and sacrificing the training that can significantly improve the quality of safety for everyone in your community.

What would it take for someone to think this is important enough to change it?

Law enforcement is supposed to be rooted in a focus on communities and the public.  Law enforcement is supposed to make people feel safer.  Law enforcement is supposed to be for the benefit of the people.  So how much longer will the people’s benefit be diminished?

Dear law enforcement agencies: if the people you serve are afraid of you, have little confidence in your dedication to protect them because your life seems to matter more than theirs, and if the people in your community think you aren’t committed to understanding the issues affecting them the most, (such as fear of being killed by an officer during a “routine traffic stop”), then you are failing your mission to ensure public safety…you are failing your community.

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