We see the videos popping up more and more, capturing the worst of the police profession. It makes good cops angry and more disturbingly, casts a shadow over the profession, making even the average person wonder about all cops. It’s frustrating, I know. But, instead of getting angry at the person who posted the video, we should be angry at the individual tarnishing our badge, and the system that allows those unworthy personnel to stay too long, by resigning and moving to another jurisdiction. They should not keep their certification. We need higher standards and a commitment to uphold those standards nationwide.
I’m going to say something completely challenging the popular narrative in our culture today. We don’t need less militarization of policing, we need more. Yes, I said more.
Dear, citizen, I hear you yelling, “WTH?” But, before you fly off the handle and your head explodes, please listen. Not bigger, badder guns or armored vehicles. We need more military-like training and streamlined standards. I’ll explain. When you join the Marines, you go to basic training at Parris Island, SC or San Diego, CA. Everybody goes there for training. The same training. There is a standard curriculum and standard requirements in order for you to EARN the right to call yourself a marine. That’s right. EARN the title. In the process you learn what character it takes to be a marine. What’s best about this is that once a marine is forged into the proper mold, now any duty assignment he goes to, his superiors know that he has at least met the minimum criteria for becoming a marine. More importantly, his fellow marines can rest assured of his training in the event they have to cover each others asses in a firefight.
That’s what we need in law enforcement. Standards and continuity. We say we have them, and their are various criminal justice standards organizations, but the truth is they are a patchwork of differing requirements state to state. Training for law enforcement should be standardized nationally. A cop in a small town in Iowa should get the same training as a cop in LA, and held to the same standard of achievement. That way, a cop in a small town in Virginia, who moves to Tampa is truly making a lateral move and can be readily assimilated. As a nation and profession, we have to come to the realization that too often we have been derelict in our duty to ensure only the best wear a badge. An officer’s standing and responsibility in the society requires a higher level of character and physical fitness. Once selected, it is then our duty to ensure rigorous, continued, training, even though that costs money. It’s imperative that we make this change.
Police recruits should EARN the right to hold the title of Police Officer. Exhibit the character required to wear a badge. Too often, we have relinquished law enforcement training to our community colleges and accepted less stringent standards on a daily basis. I’ve heard way too many stories from new officers that half the time instructors didn’t show up or their FTO didn’t do anything but dog a certain intersection for traffic tickets, and consequently they are on the street and don’t know how to handle some basic call. More disturbing is the tendency today in law enforcement to hire experienced officers, without really vetting them. We need look no further than a few current cases in the news. The Tamir Rice shooting and the Floyd Dent excessive force case both feature examples of officers who left their agencies under questionable circumstances and are now in the news again. Raising the standards of law enforcement and making a commitment to one another that those standards will be universal could prevent these and many more cases like them. I mean, how is it that the Tulsa Sheriff can openly say that he has the power to “waive criteria”? And in the past month, NYPD and Philadelphia have openly acknowledged they haven’t been requiring their officers to undergo continuing training in critical areas like defensive tactics. If the first and fourth largest agencies in this country are neglecting training, what does logic say is happening elsewhere? That’s a big problem.
Folks, we have to take a hard look at our professional standards. Raising the bar will benefit every good cop on the streets today. This, in turn, will benefit our communities, and make our cities safer. Most importantly, national standards will begin to restore the public’s faith in law enforcement. If you’re a cop today, you don’t have to be perfect. We know you are human. But as a profession, policing must start striving for a national level of excellence. The time is now.