U.S. Police Academies Among ‘Worst’ in World: Expert

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Police graduation ceremony, Philadelphia 2019. Courtesy City of Philadelphia via Flickr.

Can better training help officers make the right decisions during tense encounters with civilians?

Police in the United States receive less initial training than their counterparts in other rich countries—about five months in a classroom and another three or so months in the field, on average, reports the Atlantic Online. In contrast, many European nations offer training lasting as much as three or four years in what amounts to  police universities. They also have national standards about various steps in police procedures, such as hows to search a car.

“We have one of the worst police-training academies in comparison to other democratic countries,” said Maria Haberfeld, a police-science professor at John Jay College.

Although police reform is a contentious subject, there’s a striking consensus among U.S. police leaders that “we do not get enough training in a myriad of fields,” Dennis Slocumb, the legislative director of the International Union of Police Associations told The Atlantic.

Many policing experts recommend that officers be trained to slow down when they are able to do so, giving themselves time to decide the best course of action. “Police are taught in the academy [that] police always have to win,” says Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum. But sometimes it’s okay not to win, particularly if it means saving a life.”

Inadequate training may have been a factor in the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago, reports the Detroit Legal News.  The officer who fired the fatal shot shouted at the boy, who allegedly had a firearm, to show his ‘hands.’ The boy was killed even though video footage showed he had complied. but even after the boy raised his hands.

The often-used “show me your hands!” command can unintentionally accelerate a confrontation, said Von Kliem, a former police officer and director of consulting division for the Force Science Institute. Kliem noted that he motions of a person trying to obey can appear at first like the moves someone makes to start an attack.

Some law enforcement training specialists have raised concerns about the phrase since the 1990s, and they are supported by advocates.  “Are we doing the right thing by putting our officers in situations that require a split-second decision?” said Nathan Morris, an attorney for a 13-year-old shot in Utah.  “Should they even be chasing a 13-year-old child down?”

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