Friday, April 14, 2017
We Need a Federal Police Academy
This post has been extensively revised since I first uploaded it.
Every couple of days, Americans see, on network TV news, videos of appalling and infuriating misbehavior by police, all over the country, in big cities and small towns. The proliferation of dashcams and body cameras among police departments, and cellfone videos among citizen observers around the Nation, has produced massive visual proof of commonplace but nonetheless outrageous wrongdoing by police, who should have known that their misdeeds would be captured on video, but who were somehow not deterred from such behavior, perhaps because they are abysmally STUPID.
We instituted use of dashcams and bodycams on police in large part to deter misdeeds, more than just to provide courts with proof of misdeeds by the people the police approached. Such technologies were to be evenhanded, unbiased aids to justice, in condemning miscreants on both sides of the badge. Cops were to regard cameras as backups for their intuitions and actions, but they immediately jumped to assume that cameras could catch them up in unlawful abuses, so the testimony of such cameras was quickly understood to be impossible to deny. Smart cops understood that they needed always to be 'seen' as doing the right thing. Good cops had nothing to fear. Bad cops had everything to fear.
It is plain to me that we need EVERY SINGLE POLICE OFFICER in this country (and many private security guards who stand-in for police in schools, shopping malls, and such) to be trained in a SINGLE, FEDERAL police academy. I don't care if the typical class comprises 27 people or 27-hundred, or even 27 THOUSAND. We just need to have a uniform standard, teaching best-practices, for ALL police officers at every level of government, from the tiniest town to the largest city to an entire State Police department, to ICE, the FBI, and every other Federal law-enforcement operation.
We could establish an Academy with several branches, but I think it would be much better to have a single Academy, in a single location, so that everyone being trained at the same time could interact with other people, from other parts of the country, which would help them to understand that each of them is an integral and indispensable part of a NATIONAL police force. Between classes, they would interact with people from other places, with other attitudes, and learn from those personal interactions more than just from the classroom and field trips, what police work, and community interaction, are supposed to be.
I even have a location to suggest for such an Academy, my own magnificent city, Newark, New Jersey, a perfect mix of big-city and semi-suburban environments, with a population about 50/50 white-black. Newark has extensive suburbs, in a metropolitan area of about 2 million people, so in less than half a day, cadets could move from hardcore urban to relaxed suburban areas. In regard to farther-afield field trips, Newark is located pretty much at the center of Megalopolis, the enormous concentration of cities and suburbs stretching from Boston on the north to Washington, DC on the south. Within a single day, cadets could be not just in Newark, a city with its own serious law-enforcement challenges, but also Jersey City, Trenton, Camden, Atlantic City, all in New Jersey, plus Philadelphia, close-in, and New York City, the Nation's greatest city, with all its problems. Newark has one of the world's greatest airports, with flites to pretty much the entire planet, so if the Academy thought it instructive to compare law enforcement in other countries, field trips could be made to London, Paris, Cape Town, Mumbai, Singapore, Shanghai, Tokyo, you-name-it, all within a short drive from the Academy to EWR (the world-known code for Newark International Airport).
Everyone in this country, and visiting this country from abroad (many of whom would not understand how things like civil rights could differ from one location to another in the same country) should be able to TRUST that, wherever they might go in the United States, they will be treated fairly, in accord with uniform standards, by every single police officer they encounter. Every single one.
So let us bring it on, a United States Police Academy — USPA ("U.S.P.A.", said as separate letters), all the way. Any police officer anywhere in the Nation who misbehaves brings shame upon every other officer, everywhere in the Nation. It's time for no officer to bring shame to any officer, anywhere in the Nation. Everyone who offers him- or herself for service in a police (or sheriff's, or whatever) department must accept the burden of being an exemplar for ALL police officers EVERYWHERE. A Federal Police Academy could professionalize the policing occupation, form bonds of camaraderie and affection between people of multitudinous localities, and ensure that the police of every part of this country really do "Protect and Serve" all the people.
A student's progress, or lack thereof, would give authorities a chance to head off possible future problems, by empowering mental-health professionals to intervene well in time to prevent people who should not be in a position of lethal authority from getting anywhere near such authority. That would include profoundly STUPID people, who should never be in a position of authority over ANYone. A cadet who sets off alarms should be told of the Academy's concerns and adamantly offered help. Such an interview might well reveal serious psychological issues that would need to be addressed before that candidate is ever given a gun. That would clearly be in the best interest not just of society but also of the troubled individual whose potentially tragic life course could be altered. Plainly, current recruitment and training programs for police officers do not do any such work in eliminating troubled individuals or getting them the help they need.
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