Why have two unarmed teens been shot dead by police within the last week? Why has Ferguson, Missouri turned into a military war zone dubbed “Baghdad USA,” where wild police are firing rubber bullets and tear gas into unarmed protesters and arresting reporters in McDonalds for filming their “official duties?” Why are people profiled every day, stopped, frisked, and roughed up only to be let go with no information on the officer that violated their rights? Why? Why do police agencies fight so hard not to be filmed when their jobs are rooted in the gathering of evidence? I get Facebook messages and emails like this all day every day and I cannot answer these questions. However, I have looked to other areas like the medical field, legal field, and engineering field and noticed that when these professionals make egregious errors, everyone focuses on their training? Where they went to school, how long, whom they studied under, where they trained, etc., and it got me thinking – Why don’t we do this when it comes to the police? When trying to decipher origins of the mass upsurge in police misconduct, it would make the most sense to look to their origins – their training – the so called “Academy” from which they get licensed to be what they are.
I first tried to compare police training to the aforementioned fields (as I have personal experience with Undergrad and Law School) and it was like comparing apples and oranges. Doctors, lawyers, and engineers often have training requirements that so far eclipse that of police that they cannot even be realistically compared. But, it is a common assertion that police are the ones in our society that are trained to handle authority, the law, and work with deadly weapons. Most people believe that police are experts in law and in the use of deadly force. Let’s be totally honest, the assertion that police officers are calm, professional, and level-headed does not stand up to any real scrutiny. So, let’s do it. Let’s compare police training to the training for another noble occupation – say, hairdressing.
Let’s start with the State of California. Police officers must undergo at least 664 hours of training. Some localities such as Sacramento increase this requirement to 933 hours. It sounds like quite a lot of training until you consider that cosmetologists must go through 1,600 hours of training before they are allowed to clip a single hair. They use sharp scissors – police use GUNS and AMMO!
Various police departments in New York State are constantly in the headlines for maddening incidents of unjustified force. New York City is known for its controversial “stop and frisk” policy, effectively rendering the Fourth Amendment null and void in public places. Although the minimum number of training hours for police officers in that State has been steadily increased since 1963, it is still only 639 hours. Compare this to the 1000 hours required for hairdressers. Perhaps the ones who carry guns and make arrests among New Yorkers should have at least as much training as those who shave their hair. This is particularly troubling since New York authorities are constantly expanding their authority on the grounds that they are at a high risk for terrorism.
Chicago is no haven of level-headed policing, either. Their officers are frequently videotaped beating and brutalizing people for the most minor offenses or even no offenses at all. Why should this be the case when their officers go through a whopping 1000 hours of training? Maybe that’s not enough; hairdressers in the state of Illinois must complete 1500 hours of training.
Coincidentally, North Carolina hairdressers also go through 1500 hours of training. Unfortunately, their cops are allowed to strap on a pistol and take to the streets after only 620 hours. Apparently, North Carolina officials believe that giving a perm is more dangerous than kicking down the door of someone suspected of a crime.
In New Mexico, where the frequency of police brutality has attracted the attention of the US Justice Department, officials have actually reduced the minimum training hours for police to 650. Meanwhile, hairdressers can’t get their license with any less than double that number of training hours.
Of course, policing and cutting hair are two different occupations, but the huge disparity in training hours between the two is extremely interesting. Either police get away with too little training, hairdressers are held to an excessive standard, or both. There is no logical reason that one can gain permission to uphold society’s laws with deadly force quicker than they can get permission to cut hair. It is clear that a person could be hurt badly by sharp scissors, razors, and the delicate chemicals used to dye and frost hair. However, police have 40 caliber handguns strapped to their hips, handcuffs on their belt, tasers and batons, which are all designed to inflict harm against people. Moreover, police are, for the most part, immune to punishment for misuse of the above tools. It would be much easier to hold a hairdresser accountable for burning one’s tresses with poorly mixed hair bleach than it would be to hold an officer for wrongly stopping people, searching them, beating them or even shooting them.
When police make decisions on the job, the lives of citizens are often on the line. It seems a grave error in judgment to let people carry a badge and a gun and make life and death decisions with less training than a certified stylist.
This is perhaps one of the reasons that we see so many incidents of police officers raiding the wrong houses, arresting innocent people, and even killing them. Maybe the police ACADEMY should be slightly more academic…
noun: academy; plural noun: academies
A society or institution of distinguished scholars, artists, or scientists, that aims to promote and maintain standards in its particular field. “the National Academy of Sciences”
An institution where instruction is given, especially to persons under college age:
“The children are at school.”