New law enforcement officers in the Washington, D.C., area increasingly are getting part of their training at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The New York Times reports that the trainees first do a two-hour museum tour, then hear
a lecture, accompanied by shocking photos, about police practices in Nazi Germany. A speaker from the explains the similarities between the mandates of the local police in the Third Reich and those of the recruits. The list included having knowledge of their communities, investigating suspicious behavior, marshaling power and responsibility, making good use of their training and experience, instilling trust in the public and ensuring the continuity of an orderly society. “It seemed to be dawning on the recruits that 60 years ago in Germany young men and women just like them, perhaps just as certain of their purpose, were blindly committing themselves to evil,” The Times says.
Whether the museum’s unusual program is effective, or, as some police officers complain, worthless idealism, is another matter. Now four years old and begun as a local experiment instigated by Chief Charles Ramsey of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, it has by now been attended by every officer in his force. It is a fixture in the city’s police training program, and as shown by the presence of the recruits from Baltimore County, it has caught on with other departments and the FBI.
Chief Ramsey said there had been a 68 percent drop in incidents of deadly force involving the city’s police force since 1999, but he did not attribute this solely to the museum program.