How Police Culture Can Block Reform Efforts

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The push to rethink policing since George Floyd’s death quickly gained traction, but issues central to the ongoing debate — including how officers should police communities and how departments police their officers — may fail because of ingrained police culture, the Washington Post reports. Police and city leaders have repeatedly adopted changes, only to run into veteran officers who resist these efforts and powerful unions fighting discipline. In Minneapolis, after police used fatal force in two high-profile encounters that led to protests, Mayor Jacob Frey announced a ban on “fear-based” and “warrior-style” police training, which teaches officers that every encounter with a citizen is fraught with danger and could be fatal. The rebellion from the police union was immediate. The group’s president, Lt. Robert Kroll, said he wanted officers with “ice in their veins” and was “proud to embrace” warrior training. Warrior-style training videos were shared among the force to blunt reforms.

Field training officers can be promoted despite complaints about how they police. Derek Chauvin, accused of killing Floyd, had at least 17 prior complaints filed against him, with just one that resulted in disciplinary action. “Doesn’t it seem logical that you would not put someone with that kind of record in a supervisory position?” said Timothy Bildsoe, a member of the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training, which sets training requirements for police departments. Police officers can get worn down by the change in police chiefs — who are often out of the job in just a few years — and a parade of new policies, said Hassan Aden, former police chief in Greenville, N.C. “Officers in departments that have constant change in leadership get fatigued and at some point, they develop the attitude that I’m going to outlast this,” Aden said.

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