Task Force Calls for National Standards in Police Training

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Police forces across America should adopt national standards for certification and training to ensure officers are exposed to the most relevant and contemporary research and practice regardless of whether they work in big cities or small towns, a Council of Criminal Justice task force on policing said Thursday.

“Police officer training in the U.S. varies significantly across departments, is relatively limited in duration, and is not well-aligned with what’s known about effective training principles from other professions and countries,” said the task force report  by the Council on Criminal Justice.

“Far too often decisions about whether and when to invest in certain trainings are guided by the latest trends and premised on assumptions that training will be effective,” said the task force.

“National standards on training and certification would ensure that all officers, regardless of jurisdiction and agency size or location, receive a sufficient level of exposure to key concepts, skills, and tactics.”

The task force said the federal government could play an important role by promoting and incentivizing “learning hubs” sand innovations.

The Task Force of 11 law enforcement, civil rights and community leaders sharply criticized current police practices, noting that ”most police training in the United States is misfocused, too short, uses ineffective teaching methods, and is out of alignment with both community safety priorities and research about what works to minimize bias and use of force,”

The assessments were contained in a set of new reports on police practices ranging from chokeholds to the duty to intervene.

While many of the issues related to police behavior are at the core of the national debate over the future of policing, there is a widespread consensus about the need for national standards.

The task force recommendations on training and certification include:

    • Police officer training curricula should dedicate more time to acquiring communication skills, learning de-escalation tactics and principles of procedural justice, and handling scenarios that officers are most likely to encounter.
    • Police training should comport with a resiliency-based approach, which teaches officers to recognize stress and self-regulate their responses to it, rather than the more typical “stress-oriented” military training approach, which involves intensive physical demands and psychological pressure.
    • Officers should be subjected to periodic recertification that includes not just firearms training, but also other core topics.

“Training is a critical piece of ongoing efforts to reduce the use of excessive force by police officers, but too often, decisions about whether and when to invest in certain types of training are guided by the latest trends, rather than evidence,” said Task Force Executive Director Nancy La Vigne.

“To substantially reduce police violence and improve law enforcement’s relationship with communities, it’s crucial that policymakers use research to shape their decisions about the investment of scarce training dollars.”

The training evaluations are the second package released by the Task Force, which issued recommendations on chokehold bansduty-to-intervene policies and no-knock warrants in January.

Established in November 2020 by the nonpartisan Council on Criminal Justice, the panel is evaluating the most commonly proposed police reforms focused on preventing police use of excessive force, reducing racial biases, increasing police accountability, and improving the relationship between law enforcement agencies and communities.

For each measure, the Task Force produces an assessment weighing the proposal’s relative value based on the best available research and the expertise and experience of members.