145 Comments

Just a note: There’s also a LOT of bullshit pseudoscience pervading police culture right now, masquerading as empirical justification for shitty police attitudes.

It would be nice to have a central institution where shitty claims could be weeded out and good observations refined into a more rigorous model for the future.

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founding

My concern would be that the police university would end up hiring "experts" like the ones who promoted the Satanic Panic ( https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/devil-in-the-details/ ) or the ones who are going around today teaching officers that they need a "warrior mindset" ( https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/01/26/police-training-reform/ ). A policing institution that actually focuses on how to evaluate the state of public safety and improve it would be great. One that simply serves to put a veneer of academic credibility on existing biases would be much less-so.

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This is DEFINITELY a major hole in the idea, and I’m glad you pointed it out.

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founding
May 18·edited May 18

The most frustrating part is, to the extent whatever body was empowered to hire for the police university sought to staff it with serious, non-partisan thinkers who are just there to develop, and then teach, methods for tracking crime data and perceptions of public safety and then intervene to make life better; they would be _viciously_ attacked from the right, for refusing to provide representation to the utterly batshit, evidence-free views of the right. And they'd be attacked from the left as well, with equal vitriol (though probably fewer credible death threats -- thus far the left doesn't do "stochastic terror" as well as the right), for standing for the principle that police should, you know, _exist_.

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One would hope that the basic ethos of the university would filter out unsubstantiated theories, although I don’t know with how much confidence we could believe that.

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May 18·edited May 18

The central problem is in the standards of evidence. The courts regularly allow nonsense to masquerade as scientific.

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It’s not just about the courts, though. The courts accept the shitty evidence because the culture puts a sheen of respectability on it.

There’s a meme-ish aspect to it all. Some full-of-shit “expert” calculates that a knife-wielding attacker can close a gap in X seconds, and then every cop in America “learns” this in their tactics-obsessed training. More shitty research happens, all based on this fundamentally bad assumption. By the time it gets in front of a judge or jury, a new generation of “experts” can point to what looks like an entire body of “evidence” that “any cop in America could tell you!”.

In the absence of an actual institution with real standards of intellectual integrity and rigor, these things will ALWAYS devolve into circular reasoning.

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May 18·edited May 18

Yea, the whole police > prosecution > expert witness loop is so full of corrupting incentives it's hard to imagine how to unravel it.

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Well, I think *this* is how. It starts with rigor and peer review, aimed at changing the toxic culture.

One of the few things the courts are mildly good at is processing new rigorously-researched evidence. You don’t even need them all to acknowledge it, you just need one enlightened judge who can tell the difference between pseudoscience and peer review.

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founding

Enlightened judges, in a world where Mitch McConnell has stacked the courts, are a rare commodity.

One of Petri's best: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/08/sitting-throne-skulls-mitch-mcconnell-confirms-his-8999th-judge/

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Throne of skulls?

I'd hate to see one of her worst.

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Rare, but nonzero.

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What is wrong with the police often has very little to do with the courts. The police often are extremely uninformed about criminal procedure as it is determined in courts. It’s a huge problem you see in conflicts between police unions and prosecutor offices.

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Yeah, it was head-scratching to read a proposal for including more Data-Driven(tm) education in policing without acknowledging that the august fields of criminology, forensics, etc. are...uh...not really known for empirical rigor. The recentish expose of "911 call analysis" is a great example, Many Such Cases: https://www.propublica.org/article/911-call-analysis-fbi-police-courts

...at the same time, it's hard to avoid noting that inculcating cop programs in the same academic environment that help[ed/s] give intellectual cover to Acktually Police [Don't Stop/Cause] Crime silliness is something of a fraught endeavor. Making it a poison pill via credentialism and promotion incentives is one way to do "if police won't come to the academy, the academy will come to the police". But I don't know if that's worth the resulting backlash for playing stolen-bases police reform politics. Not an effective vaccine for blue flu either. (...it's also weird to notch high unionization in the positives column, given the long history of union opposition to reform efforts...)

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Meh, I’m fine with a long battle against the “blue flu” - it’s the police equivalent of treason in the first place, and should be treated as such, with zero tolerance except for the occasional politically-necessary amnesties.

But I also just don’t see any other way to start down the needed path BESIDES just courting the backlash and dealing with it. It’s certainly not going to get any EASIER the longer we wait!

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Yeah, that would be nice. I just wonder if that's what we would get

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And who are you going to hire to run those schools? You're not going to hire out of touch academics teaching police how to deal with a dude on PCP who wants to kill them.

So the alternative is some guy from the police union who basically is just going to institutionalize teaching it's ok to be afraid of everything and just shoot randomly in the air until you kill the closest black guy (Don't forget to have your buddies ready on hand to yell "I see a gun!")

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lol. Do you believe there are no humans with intellectual abilities, a knowledge of scientific method, and who has at some point in their careers worn a badge?

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It doesn't matter. Police training is what it is because that's what they want to teach. No please institution is going to have hippie academics teaching them.

It would be the same thing as forcing or even assuming they would be interest from lefty liberal arts students in taking a crash course in economics, statistics, and policy/politics.

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You’re describing the median cop. An institution could hire people who are further to the reasonable end of the cop spectrum. They’re not ALL bad.

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I disagree with this take. Slow Boring has previously covered Master of Education programs for teachers. They are pure waste in themselves, and plausibly generate negative spillovers from creation of an unreliable research literature. I worry that this will work out the same.

I don’t think this country needs another job category requiring/rewarding a college degree of questionable value.

I know we’re rich, and yes we can afford all kinds of zero-value economic activity, but with a fertility crisis on, where possible I think we should try to let 18 year olds get real jobs, be productive, and start on the path to family formation.

EDIT: Thank you for acknowledging that the existing studies don’t differentiate between selection and treatment effects. Also edited for tone.

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author

A fair response. But I'd emphasize again that a college degree shouldn't be required to become a police officer. But this is an opportunity to increase the quality and quantity of our police officer recruiting base.

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More than 50% of teachers have a Masters, even though outright requirements for them are rare. This example shows that if you subsidize getting a credential and reward having it, it will be very popular, even if not mandatory. (And even if the work to get the credential has no actual payoff in terms of improved performance.)

We’re talking about potentially wasting years of people’s productive lives here. I want better evidence than a few studies which can’t distinguish selection and treatment.

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author

18-22 year old officers are the worst performing by basically every metric. Again, not saying a college degree should be required, but I don’t think we should be worried about reducing the prevalence of that age cohort in our police departments.

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Agreed. Splendric is asking for too high of a burden of proof relative to the cost and potential reward.

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Couldn’t you argue that with teachers there are diminishing marginal returns on further education because they all already have bachelors degrees and are already required to do extra professional development? I think if the average teacher had only 500 hours of training after high school, we *would* see improvements by adding more educational requirements or incentives.

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I do always love points based on diminishing marginal returns, and you’re right that this weakens the force of my example in this case.

However, even granting for the sake of argument that more education would improve cop performance, we still have to grapple with trade offs and limited resources.

Are we better off with 4 cops on the beat, each with a bachelors degree, or 5 cops without? We know having more cops out and about in itself deters crime, and that more detective-hours helps to solve crimes. We need evidence that cops with degrees aren’t just a little better at their job, they need to be a lot better, before this passes muster in cost-benefit terms.

(Also! Cops not getting degrees will be getting experience on the job. Your classroom time doesn’t just have to be much better than nothing, it has to be much better than on the job learning.)

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founding

Nursing programs apparently have pretty poor quality control as well -- I know somebody who was in a nursing program where they were wasting a significant chunk of students' time (and federal subsidy money) by "teaching" quite a bit of alternative medicine woo.

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I don’t think it’s super widespread, but that’s a problem anywhere it happens

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I agree with some of this, but you're being needlessly obnoxious.

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Thanks, you’re right, edited to try to address.

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The selection effects aren’t limited to factors like age. College-educated officers may tend to do different kinds of work that would make them less likely to be in situations where shooting or disciplinary actions would be more likely

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My wife was (BRAG ALERT!) in a group of five women who were the first women police officers in Seattle, so probably the entire state, in 1975. Spent her entire career in law enforcement, doing a wide variety of things.

At that time, one got credit for having a college degree. In her class of 30, at least 2/3 were graduates. Noteworthy also is that 30 were accepted for the police academy out of 2200 applicants! They could be incredibly selective (BRAG ALERT! My wife graduated 3rd even with the requirement that everyone had to meet the same physical standards).

So, with that. Here are some issues we believe are worth considering:

1. Is there really a problem with policing? According to her, on a typical day, a police officer will have 20 "stops"/contacts per day. Multiply that by the number of officers there are in this country (well over 700,000 NOT including those in corrections), and you get 14 million stops/encounters each day. Multiply that by 365 and you get 5 billion+ stops per year.

What this means, to me, is that these powerful and ugly interactions between some police and the public are actually quite rare. And that leads to a different framing of the problem (and different solutions) than the popular one that police need "reforming" or educating.

2. Policing involves getting down in the dirt and fighting. Will college graduates really be drawn to that kind of occupation?

3. The problem with policing today is that being a police officer puts you and your family at high risk. So, people aren't applying, people are retiring, people are quitting, and people are moving to "safer' neighborhoods to police, because of all of the hostility and negativity that is directed at police. This is leaving low income and minority areas suffering the most.

4. Policing involves dwelling in brutality and ugliness. A different world from the one the rest of us inhabit. It is a mind-altering experience.

5. It is dangerous. More guns around. More drugs. People die more in some other professions, but policing is the only one where people actually TRY to kill you.

6. Because of the proliferation of guns, more police react quickly. Threat assessment happens in 1/3 the time it takes you to blink an eye. This means mistakes--the same mistakes that any of us would make. But it means the loss of life. And hostility from the public.

7. BRAG ALERT! My wife is also beautiful. Here is a video of us dancing recently. Told ya! My advice to all of you guys is MARRY A POLICE OFFICER!!! I love my private police officer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfc3Cr6lVaA

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This is an old post, but I don’t have the time to look for revised numbers and I doubt it’s different now: https://www.econlib.org/is-being-a-cop-so-dangerous/.

Policing is nowhere near as high risk as anti-reform advocates make it out to be. And as a (teachers) union member, I really resent how insulated police continue to be from any accountability for their actions. Kids in schools have guns, too! I don’t want a gun to defend myself against them, even though my state legislature is currently encouraging me to get one. I don’t have any colleagues in my (rural, conservative) district who want to arm themselves kids either. Maybe that’s because we all have college degrees?

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May 18·edited May 18

I do find a lot of the reformer talk about risk a bit misguided, so I'll make a few points in favor of the cops on this one, some of which OP touched on:

-Policing isn't the absolute riskiest job out there in terms of getting killed, but it's undoubtedly one of the higher risk ones.

-The risks facing the more dangerous jobs are very different than policing. Yes, loggers don't need to defend themselves with guns despite being a lot more likely to die on the job, but it's because that's not the particular risk they happen to face. Saying "this is how X higher risk job manages it!" isn't really relevant to police.

-Arguably one of the reasons there are as few police shot on the job as there are is because of the many precautions they take to protect themselves from that. It doesn't happen in a vacuum. So to say "they don't need to take those precautions, look how few get killed with them in place" doesn't make much sense.

This is obviously not to defend cops who use unjustified force. But the basic principles police in the US use (which many reformers hate) of carrying guns, being mentally prepared for a suspect to pull out a gun, and approaching high risk suspects with guns drawn, all seem pretty much justified to me, at least in the context of a country with so many guns.

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Obviously I was not killed the job but in over 25 years as a cop I had:

shots fired at me (disclaimer they were from a distance or angle that made them unlikely to hit me) twice in my career, fought with one guy over a gun he was trying to pull out (and I am related confident he meant to shoot me but he was really high so who knows), was jumped by three guys while undercover, was assaulted over a dozen times, had three work related surgeries requiring more than months rehabilitation, was outright sucker punched two times (I worked in a bar district and very rarely someone would walk up and punch you- they were normally very drunk and it did not really hurt that bad but it kept you your toes), hit by a car and knocked about 20’ through the air once and these are just the injuries I can recall while sitting my car waiting for a tow.

My academy class of 20 people had three of us shot (none killed thankfully) in the 27 or so years since we graduated. My dad who was also in LE was shot at three times and held at gunpoint once (he was on a tactical team back in the 70s so it was a little crazier). I had two friends murdered, one friend die in a car crash, one very close friend (we were hired together) kill himself after being fired and then charged criminally for make a tactical mistake that resulted in a serious injury to a suspect, and had a handful of other acquaintances kill themselves.

Long story short, risk in policing is highly variable based on jurisdiction, assignment, and time period. Training tends to assume that everyone will be in the highest risk situations because (as the article mentions) there is so little time to train that it is difficult to do more.

I’ll post more later but I ran a major city training division, ran training evaluation before that, teach police leadership and consult now. There is a ton of areas that policing can and should improve on, but almost all of the issues are structural (this include cultural changes in policing which is largely inhibit by the short tenure of most chiefs) and/or related to resource constraints.

PS I thought it was a very well researched article.

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Very good point about the relative risks that loggers and police officers face, and I want to add to it: it's not only the risk of injury/death, but also the, for want of a better word, human element of that risk that matters.

Yes, let's say that a logger is at higher risk of being crushed to death by a falling tree than a police officer is of being shot to death. But when you're working as a logger, the trees aren't cursing you and hating you for cutting them down. The risk is impersonal. Whereas, as a police officer, you are constantly dealing with people who hate you, curse you, call you a motherf*cker, actively wish you harm, etc. That just feels different and, I would imagine, is a lot more wearing and off-putting. It's just a fact of human psychology: having an intelligent agent who actively wishes you harm feels very different from being at risk of being hurt/killed by impersonal forces.

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The most blatant recent example happened in Memphis where 4 officers held a guy while another one kicked him in the face, killing him. They deserved a long prison sentence, and got one.

Two points about this: Those officers would never have been admitted to the Police Academy in my wife's day. As I stated: 30 were accepted out of 2200 applicants. The Memphis police officers were given signing bonuses! This is what communities are having to do, meaning the most vulnerable in our society are not getting the best people any longer.

Second point: People evolved to respond to anecdotes. We had no need for seeing the "big picture" by acquiring statistical skills. Anecdotes about bad policing (and there is some) are more salient to people than are the billions of stops that don't go bad. So we have a natural tendency to mis-react to anecdotes by generalizing them to all police. And who suffers? Low income and minorities---the very people who need the most protection. My wife had mothers coming up to her begging her to get rid of the "bad guys" because they were afraid for their children.

Third point: (I know I said two points.....!). The percentage of police officers with a college degree is only slightly lower than the percentage of Americans with a college degree. Getting more with college degrees may have helped in the past, but now those people with college degrees are going into other professions or getting out of policing. They know they can make a living without the risks and without the hostility that police are now experiencing from too many people.

Fourth point: (!). When you are a police officer, you lose friends..... My wife's kids (now mine also) had people who wouldn't associate with them because of this.

Who wants this kind of life anymore?

And, again I will say: The science is clear. Policing benefits low income and minority families the most. And they will suffer the most from the hostility being directed at police.

Thanks for a reasoned response. We don't have to agree on things to talk respectfully to each other.

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May 18·edited May 18

There is always a balance between risk and harm. I remember the case in Los Angeles where the victim was shot and killed after selling loosie single cigarettes when a bunch of cops had already subdued him but a rookie mistakenly shouted that he had a gun (which he didn't) and he was shot dozens of times.

Now it could be argued and it was determined that this was justified, but those decisions are often dictated by training that emphasizes shoot first and think later. Granted the job is risky, but if it is over perceived as such, and it is the 14th riskiest job in the US, but when the training is overly focused on preventing any injury to the cops but not on the public, you will have an overly aggressive force.

Now, the largely discredited Hassan Minaj did a show on police training, and I would no longer consider him a reliable source, but it was a very compelling show that went into training regarding use of lethal force and it seems like the training pushed extremely aggressive protocols only concentrating on protecting the lives of officers, hardly something to not consider, but what is the trade off, do you kill 5, 10, or 100 innocent people to save the life of one officer. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=km4uCOAzrbM&t=6s )

Most people over estimate criminal risk from watching too many TV shows or news articles and I suspect police are no exception.

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Those are good points.

I want to respond to some of them, but am not arguing with any of them.

Your question of the trade-off is an important one. I don't know the data, but there is a trade-off for sure.

I think it is valid to think about how all of the issues about policing is actually because of criminals. Period. Without criminal behavior there nobody would be caring about imaginary police responses. And our crime rates are astronomically higher than they are in England, Australia, Canada, etc. That's not the fault of policing.

Joe Friday, in the old TV show Dragnet, once remarked that "the problem with police is that they are drawn from the human race."

Arthur Brooks, in last Thursday's Atlantic, reviewed information on threat assessment. To activate the limbic system that there is threat, based on visual information, happens 1/3 as fast as does the blinking of an eye. In other words, we evolved to assess threat assessment practically immediately.

Look at the situation in Uvalde. The police stood outside. Why didn't they rush the situation? Answer (OK, I'll admit it, MY answer): They didn't want to die. Police are no different from the rest of us human beings in that we don't want to die. And, so, when in high conflict situations, none of which training can really prepare you for, with high adrenalin, with the likelihood that someone is carrying a gun, and with human beings' automatic threat assessment occurring almost instantaneously (i.e., before the brain can process the information), there are going to be 'mistakes." This doesn't make the shooting "justified" in my opinion, but it does make it predictable because of how human beings have evolved.

Here is another thought regarding this dimension of immediate threat perception. Professional football players go over and over and over and...... the same plays until they get them perfectly. Then, in a game, frequently blow their assignments. Reason? "Training" can only go so far in human beings. And consequently, in police, when no situation is actually one that police have had training in (except in very general ways--not in "game" conditions) they have to make it up on the spot.

A point I have made elsewhere is that most of the people who comment negatively on policing haven't done it, and that virtually all articles about policing are not written by police officers themselves who can speak to the life-situations they face on a daily basis (e.g., I'll give one: How many people in their professions have people standing around them yelling at them for being "fu.......ng pigs?" It wears on you.

I'll repeat this again. People's hostile attitudes toward police don't hurt police--they just get out of policing (and are doing so in droves). They also don't hurt those people who live in zero-crime areas (of which, I believe, about half are). Instead they hurt minority and low income people.

Thanks again for letting me pontificate! :)

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I understand what you are saying, But in parsing out "And, so, when in high conflict situations, none of which training can really prepare you for, with high adrenalin, with the likelihood that someone is carrying a gun, " a few points. Although the training can't totally prepare you especially dealing with fear and adrenaline, there is an importance of good training and knowing proper protocols when in a tense situation. That is what professionalism is, and my worry is that the lethal force training might be too weighed to protecting the police over the civilians.

Also, if likelihood is that a person was carrying a gun is the case then I would expect the police to shoot. The more appropriate question is what if there is a "possibility" that somebody is carrying a gun, and what if that possibility were 1%, 5%, 30% or 50%. I cant accept the 1% and probably not the 5% as say the latter would mean 20 dead unarmed civilians for every officer not responding and possibly killed.

Since I cant expect every officer to make a detailed assessment in a moments notice, that is where proper protocols and training in following guidelines is critical.

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I agree on training in proper protocols. So, thanks for a substantive reaction to my comment.

A question I would have is whether there is inadequate training in protocols? Both my wife and my nephew were in law enforcement their entire careers, and they got training up the wazoo. My nephew reached the level of Lieutenant. We have a lot of talks with him.

Like an example I used earlier, even professional football players who practice the same play hundreds of time sometimes mess up. They know the protocols, but just can't be 100% accurate in following them. The reason is that they are human beings, and human beings are fallible.

I have a question about the issue of the percentage of the time where there is somebody carrying a gun. I worked part-time at a Veteran's clinical for Vietnam Vets with PTSD for 20 years.

In WWII a huge percentage of soldiers simply would not fire their guns. I mean it was somewhere above 30%. So, they "fixed" this in Vietnam. They changed the training substantially (I don't remember all, but one thing they did was having them shoot at silhouettes of people instead of at targets...that kind of thing). Well, it worked. In Vietnam practically all soldiers fired their weapons.....and the rates of PTSD soared.

It is not natural, even in war, for people to shoot or kill other people. That's why the people who dropped bombs rarely had PTSD. It was only the people who were up close to it who did. Police have to be trained to do it, but that is not to mean successfully.

Indicating that you could accept 1-5% would tell every police officer in America to go into a different profession. Human beings are simply not built like that, and no amount of training will change millions of years of evolution. It is expecting too much of people. Parents would accept almost certain death to protect their families, but beyond that, we are built for survival, not for protecting others at any kind of risk to ourselves. No amount of training can change this. Human beings are built to survive....look at Abraham Maslow's need hierarchy. Police don't go into this profession to give their lives to it....just as you and me didn't go into our professions.

You aren't doing this, but sometimes I am in total bewilderment about something. That is how high the frequency of criminal behavior is...and why it is astronomically higher in the US than in other western countries. Yet, the people who rail on police, calling them thugs and fascists, rarely seem to use the same language for murderers, rapists, thieves, etc. I've read a lot, and I rarely see any of that. It's a puzzle to me.

When there was the recent killings of three police officers, I saw none of that kind of vitriol directed toward the killer.....much different for many people than how they react to a police shooting.

Thanks again.

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"virtually all articles about policing are not written by police officers themselves"

That's why I like Graham's Substack! I often disagree with him, but he is a former police officer and hence can speak from experience.

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I didn't know about this. So looked it up and signed up for it.

Thanks.

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If you’re saying all this in good faith, there could not be a more ham-handedly spammy way to have done it. You’re not helping your cause.

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Other than the superfluous "my wife is BEAUTIFUL!" bit at the end (yes, sir, I believe you, but also, that has nothing to do with the matter at hand and you can keep it to yourself), I thought Vicky & Dan made some very good points and made them clearly and reasonably.

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Today's our anniversary. I just couldn't help it! :)

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If you are responding to Vicky & Dan I disagree vigorously. But your post does seem rude and unproductive.

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You’re free to disagree. I’m free to dislike when someone comes up in here with a bunch of lame talking points we’ve all heard a hundred times and a wierd pitch for their YouRube channel. It’s not contributing anything to the space, and actively polluting it instead.

I’d rather hear honest, genuinely considered dissent from Graham, with as wide an opinion gap as he and I have, than this pablum.

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founding

There are tens of millions of plane flights a year in the United States. A few decades ago, there were fatal crashes nearly every year, but in recent decades there have been zero. You might have said that one per several ten million is low enough and there’s no reason to try to improve, but you would have been wrong.

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> 6. Because of the proliferation of guns, more police react quickly. Threat assessment happens in 1/3 the time it takes you to blink an eye. This means mistakes--the same mistakes that any of us would make. But it means the loss of life. And hostility from the public.

I'm not here to trash police, but I would really like someone to figure out how to fix huge fuckups like this where the cops go to the wrong apartment and then shoot the guy who answers the door "in 1/3 the time it takes you to blink an eye".

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/family-air-force-airman-23-fatally-shot-florida-sheriffs-deputy-demand-rcna151452

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Please just react to what I wrote and not to what you make up.

The issue is threat assessment. Our brains have evolved to assess a threat in 1/3 of the time it takes to blink an eye. So seeing someone raise a gun will result in an immediate bodily reaction.

Second, on the link you provide is not the link provided by the police. It is a copy of it...WITHOUT the disclaimer that the video was PAUSED during the shooting although the audio continued. In other words, it is premature to say that the "cops" just shot someone who opened the door. We don't know the whole story yet. Please wait until all of the facts are out.

Third, you say that it is a "fact" that the officer went to the wrong apartment. Here is the report from the police:

At a news conference hours later, Sheriff Eric Aden said no determination had been made as to whether the deputy’s actions were justified.

“I want to assure you that we are not hiding or covering up or taking action that would result in a rush to judgment of Mr. Fortson or our deputy,” Aden said.

He said the deputy had not gone to the wrong apartment or forced his way into Fortson’s residence, and that the deputy twice identified himself. Aden did not take any questions from reporters.

You may wish to consider whether you are being objective and waiting for the real information before forming an opinion.

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That was completely arrogant and unnecessary. You catch more flies with honey.

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It's really quite amazing how much he's inferred about what each of us thinks from essentially no evidence.

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show me the evidence.

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I did not respond to your comment. You responded to mine, in this way, Look at the first thing you stated about me:

"

David Muccigrosso

Dave's Daily Discourse

7 hrs ago

If you’re saying all this in good faith, there could not be a more ham-handedly spammy way to have done it. You’re not helping your cause.

I ignored it. But you kept at it.

Signed:

Ham-handed, spammy Travelers.

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I'm going to say something else that I have said before on this thread.

Your attitude hurts low income and minority groups and areas the most. They are the ones who benefit the MOST from policing....evidence clearly shows (i.e., scientific evidence---try reading some of it sometime).

Police are quitting, retiring, and moving to "safer" areas (evidence is clear that there are some jurisdictions where there is NO crime and others where crime is rampant).

Get it? You attitude is HURTING the people we Democrats always protected. Progressives, though, are more interested in being "right" about this or that minor issue than in protecting the vulnerable.

My wife working in these high crime areas. The mothers would come to her begging (literally) to get rid of the bad guys so their criminal behavior would not get to their children. Have you ever had THAT experience?

She also worked for 6 protecting victims of abuse, child and domestic, who were strong enough (with her being there) to charge the abuser. They were incredibly vulnerable and alone. And they loved my wife. They looked to her as a role model.

Get this, and think seriously about it: We had a woman come up to her 30 YEARS later to thank her for what she had done. Ever had that?

Stop the stupid knocking of police because you are enthralled with anecdotes rather than with scientific data.

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*years

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You don't like facts either, David. They are inconveniences for you in terms of getting to the truth. I've read your comments. They too are conservative in nature, not liberal.

p.s. I also don't use name calling like you do, or cast aspersions on people's character ("arrogant.") like you do.

p.s. tell us why you have never been a police officer, but believe you are an expert. Are you also an expert brain surgeon, fighter pilot, decathlon winner, etc.? You aren't those either.

Can you explain that or will you ignore this question and/or find some other unfounded accusation to make?

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I’m reporting this. You are being combative and uncivil, making completely unjustified personal accusations against pretty much anyone who disagrees with you. Good luck.

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Go ahead. I told you that you would ignore the question and find some other unfounded accusation to make.

there are sure a lot of people who have Liked my comments. Any ideas as to why?

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Oh, right, now I remember why I don't care to engage with you.

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You mean you don't like the idea that I rely on facts?

This is a problem regarding liberalism today. People who believe they are liberals are actually as close-minded as are conservatives. They simply will not allow facts to enter into their conclusions. Instead, they start with pre-conceived ideas and only listen to people who feed them those pre-conceived ideas.

You didn't even do your research. You didn't look at the actual video released by police, and the qualifications about it. The video was paused at the shooting, but you cannot bring yourself to admit that even though it is clearly obvious and even though it was stated, clearly, in the police video.

also, you stated as a fact that it was the "wrong apartment." With no facts except someone inside the apartment saying that.

Why liberalism is failing, and why Trump is winning. Thanks for nothing.

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This is wrong, I know. But I have to tell you something else. When she was working she noticed that only women were being arrested on prostitution charges....meanwhile the men and boys cruised her area freely. So, she asked for, and got, permission to go after the guys.

She dressed as a prostitute, and waited until a man propositioned her. Then she had to have them meet her somewhere (they had to "take an action') whereupon she arrested them. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.

OK. I'm done bragging.........well, maybe not.

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I mean you can look up the actual numbers. Incidents of police brutality and killings are going up way faster than the population and while crime keeps going down. There is story after story of officers beating, maiming, and killing people who have already been restrained and on the very rare chance they even get charged they almost universally get saved by the Qualified Immunity defense. And this is all before you get to the racial data that shows how much nore likely all that bad stuff becomes for any police interaction if you aren't white. If you think police are justified in anything they do because the suspect could have a gun, imagine how it is to be the person on the other side, who knows for sure that the cop has a gun, knowing they have the authority to ruin your life if they're in a bad mood, and that you have no real defense against them if they are one of the bad apples that, at worst, will get shuffled to another precinct even after years of misconduct.

Until we can actually hold police that brutalize innocent people accountable, we will need police reform.

https://policeepi.uic.edu/u-s-data-on-police-shootings-and-violence/#:~:text=250%2C000%20An%20estimated%20250%2C000%20civilian,in%20the%20U.S.%20each%20year.

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A problem with you analysis is that you are confusing correlational data with causal data.

For example, you state "Incidents of police brutality and killings are going up way faster than the population and while crime keeps going down." What these data could just as easily suggest is that the more "police brutality and killings, then the lower the crime rate.

Racial data: Also correlational. Are you aware that around 50% of precincts (mostly white) have virtually NO crime. And that black males have a murder rate that is astronomically high and are murdered at astronomically high rates. So, could you even sort of acknowledge that more police stops of black men is because of the crime rate and not because of any type of racism.

Finally, as I have said repeatedly, your anti-police bias (e.g., "in a bad mood" "authority to ruin your life" "bad apples") hurts black communities much more than white communities. Read my other comments on the data on this issue. Police are leaving patrolling black and low income communities because they realize that there are viewpoints like yours where they are not evaluated fully using all of the data---in other words because of biases people have. Your beliefs endanger black communities. Won't affect at all white communities. Is that what you want? Will you join a police force and volunteer for black and low income communities. My wife did. She'd never even be a police officer now with all of the animosity toward police.

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Does having a college degree being associated with an 8-10% lower likelihood of being involved in a shooting mean a cop is "better", or does it mean they're assigned less dangerous beats?

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First, yeah, cops with degrees are surely treated differently by departments.

Second, as noted in the article, cops with degrees are on average just older.

Third, even if they are better, maybe that’s because smarter and more conscientious people are more likely to go and get degrees. Even if we get down this far, you still haven’t shown that sending more cops to college on the margin will help anything.

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Point 3 is not an argument against using university education as a pipeline for police recruiting, as part of the goal is to attract more conscientious candidates into police work

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Might it just be better to set a police minimum age to (insert number) 21 instead of 18? As we see in nearly all statistics, there is a rapid maturation process going on in that time frame. (crime stats by age, etc.)

Many university police departments (even at public school) have bachelor degree requirements.

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May 18·edited May 18

I'm sure there are some confounding variables there with what type of work college education vs. non college educated cops are doing. But a good portion of it is probably a genuine effect. It doesn't strike me as a crazy concept that cops with college degrees are better. People with college degrees are statistically smarter, and thus better at most jobs. So why would policing be different? Being a good cop does have some brains to it, it's not just about weapons and being about to outrun/out-muscle the bad guy.

Now, whether college degrees should be required for so many jobs in general today is another matter. Many will disagree, but personally I think we're probably sending too many people to college in general. But that's a separate issue from raising police standards.

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founding

I think you’re just saying that we should ignore this piece of evidence because we don’t know how relevant it is, and fall back on general ideas about how education works. Maybe that’s right, but if so then stating the statistic isn’t helpful.

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May 18·edited May 18

I didn't say that we should ignore that piece of evidence, I was just hypothesizing about why it exists.

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If you want to fix police recruiting problems. Maybe have the left stop talking about police like they're all racists. And evil.

The vast majority of them are good people doing a hard job.

Yes, there are a few bad apples that need to go

And of course, that's where public unions are a huge problem, just like they are with teachers

So i'm all for getting rid of public unions

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It's not just some bad apples. The culture of policing is horrible, which makes most cops at least not good apples. However, it's largely because the nature of the work. Police work isn't the most lethal, but it's one of the most stressful, and the (internal police) culture (and regulations) work against officers taking measures to protect their mental health. People who want to reform the system from within find they're dangerously ostracized—one officer related to me how, after pushing for minor reforms, other officers would routinely block her calls for help, preventing her from getting backup. They're overworked and disconnected from the communities they police, which results in them only seeing the worst of the people they're protecting. Officers who want to get therapy are shunned as being weak, and if they mention suicidal thoughts, they lose their guns, which is culturally shameful. And, yes, they resent that the public distrusts them.

Being a cop sucks. And being in a sucky job with state-sanctioned lethal power often leads to them completely undermine the trust of the communities they ostensibly serve.

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My husband is one of the kindest, most thoughtful men you could hope to meet. He is also a pathologist who specializes in brain development, and that means he's had to do a bunch of perinatal or neonatal autopsies, i.e., to cut out and dissect the brains of babies that were stillborn or died shortly after birth.

He's spoken about this to me in a way that was never disrespectful, but very mechanical and detached. I called him out on this, like, "You're talking about this like you're slicing a loaf of bread, this was someone's BABY who DIED and the parents must be DEVASTATED!" He explained to me that this was his job, someone had to do it, and if he allowed himself to think of the "specimen" as someone's precious baby who was now tragically dead, he would have been so sad and depressed that he could not do it.

This is a very inexact analogy, but what I'm clumsily getting at here is that it's unrealistic to expect many/most police officers to be kind and caring. They keep dealing with some of humanity's worst, day after day - murderers, rapists, abusers - and that's got to wear on you. This is NOT an excuse for police to be corrupt or cruel! We absolutely should expect professional conduct from our police! But given human psychology, some degree of, well, callousness is probably unavoidable if we want to avoid emotional burnout in the police.

I really, really wish Americans had fewer guns, so police officers didn't have to deal with the stress of "does this person have a gun, is he about to shoot me" with every encounter. The 2nd Amendment has a LOT to answer for.

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Medicine and policing do have a LOT more parallels than most people expect. To some degree, it makes me more sympathetic to officers who have to constantly make difficult decisions under adverse circumstances. But I also can recognize that some cops (and doctors) are just incompetent or, frankly, assholes who are not worthy of the public trust. Not everyone needs to be naturally kind and caring, which is where standards of professionalism come in.

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I suspect your husband's job involves a lot of healthy support mechanisms. One of the problems police officers I've talked to (granted, not a large sample) is both the culture of policing and the way regulations are written and interact with that culture are antagonistic to health support and self-care. The reformer I spoke to had no idea she had severe trauma until her dog died and she couldn't cope with the loss. Even admitting to herself that there might be a problem would have threatened her working relationships in potentially career-ending ways. Nobody wants a partner who isn't reliable, and reliability—for cops—means not showing or admitting you have emotions, even as you're going home and putting a gun to your head every night or can't sleep without blacking out.

Those discussions have made me very pessimistic about reform. I suspect cops everywhere have similar problems due to the nature of the kinds of people drawn to the kind of authority police have, but, yeah, throw in American gun culture, and it's a disaster.

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I would love to see my local police department put caps on overtime and give some working out credit for some meaningful self-care - therapy, yoga, meditation classes, even art or music therapy. Policing, done well, would be a very hard and stressful job. We all have implicit biases and can exaggerate threat. For most us, our careers allow us to slow down our thinking on issues that have big consequences. Police making split second safety decisions cannot. We know that people rely more on biases when they are tired, hungry, stressed, or upset. We should be normalizing that police take shorter shift when dealing the public and go out there as their best selves and then take care of themselves and recharge before they go out again. The choices they make are just too important to not give them space and time to recharge.

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You make an excellent point. Yeah, it's not like my husband is hugging it out and crying with his colleagues, but there's no shame, in, say, going to therapy if he needed it. That macho "you mustn't show any emotion or ask for help, that means you're WEAK" mentality is a huge problem.

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Support mechanisms are kind of hit-and-miss in Medicine. Many states require you disclose if you're receiving mental health treatment when you apply for or renew licensure. And you aren't really allowed to take a mental health break. I've had patients die and literally handled mass-casualties from a terror attack...and all we get are calls about why we aren't already working on the next case.

I think the newer generation of doctors is less tolerant of this environment but it's still pretty endemic. And though they're more open about having issues with depression and anxiety, they definitely hide the severity (like having suicidal thoughts).

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"I've had patients die and literally handled mass-casualties from a terror attack...and all we get are calls about why we aren't already working on the next case."

JFC, that's horrific. I'm sorry to hear that. That is very different from my husband's job, where there's still pressure, and dissecting a dead baby must be upsetting, but there's a lot less "I have to make instant life-or-death decisions."

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That's completely appalling. Makes me very happy that I work on the mental health side of things, where we have an ethical obligation for self-care.

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Is there a particular reason the US needs to have 18 000 police departments. In Australia police departments are run at the state level - so there’s six very large police departments plus a federal police force. Local police forces seem much more prone to corruption, have smaller recruiting pools and can’t access economies of scale.

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Check out the crime rate difference. You won't believe it.

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I don't know the history on this, but I suspect it comes down to fear of bigger governments having more policing power. I suspect a lot of city managers and mayors would happily push responsibility over policing to the states so they don't have to deal with crime and police abuses.

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Also lots of places directly elect their sheriff for the same reasons you're talking about.

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As usual on this topic, I hope that Graham shows up and gives his take. This seems fine to me, but he might be able to see something differently, even if I ultimately disagree with him.

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In seriousness, my soapbox police reform is to severely curtail the number of police agencies. There are a lot of agencies -- municipal police forces, county sheriff's offices, campus police, hell a lot of school districts and airports and hospitals have their own dedicated police forces! In an ideal world, everything would just default to a county-level police agency to end a lot of overlapping jurisdiction and waste. Getting rid of small-town police agencies would end one of the worst police abuses (speed traps.) School districts having their own police departments doesn't do a lot more than grease the school-to-prison pipeline; my high school seemed to do just fine with having a courtesy officer from the town's police department.

Campus police are maybe the trickiest because college campuses often DO have a need for constant police presence; then again, there's no particular reason that couldn't just be a division of the local sheriff's office.

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The campus police question is interesting. Years ago, a classmate at my left-leaning, bucolic, women's college did work-study in the campus police department and ended up going into law enforcement and receiving awards for her work, although I am sure that was not what she expected to do when she entered college.

And just this week I attended a neighbor's community college graduation party. She, too, worked at the campus police and is now transferring to a four-year college for criminal justice.

So I am now thinking about how campus police departments might tie into Ben's vision.

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founding

I really don’t think speed traps are “one of the worst abuses”. Most states have already succeeded in eliminating speed traps by setting state laws that mandate speed limits be set at the 85th percentile of observed speeds. I’ve certainly never encountered a speed trap in my decades of driving in Texas and California. I think the memory of them must live on from some past decade.

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A pet peeve of mine is Google Maps calling every reported police car on the side of the road a speed trap.

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I don't see the connection between this and curbing LEO bad behavior. Can you explain what the connection would be?

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Poor departments mean poor standards.

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I actually agree with the "send police to college" thing, but more than anything else, I just think that's because it will weed out a certain type of person. Normally I'm against degree requirements, but policing is like the one job where we could use a little bit more of that energy.

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I like Ben’s point that we don’t even need to make it EXCLUSIVELY a degree requirement. Just having a more balanced and rigorous intellectual culture — instead of one dominated by neo-Spartiate vigilante vibes — would be a major improvement.

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I’ve met a lot of police officers who have bachelor’s degrees and there’s a noticeable difference there. Just requiring cops to have a criminal justice degree from a directional school would do a lot to weed out some of the worst.

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May 18·edited May 18

Interestingly, the mantra among people going to college who want to become cops is "don't major in criminal justice".

The idea is that departments which require a degree don't require it to be any specific major, and since (in theory) you'll get the police specific training you need in the academy, you might as well use your time in college to major in something that will give you an "exit strategy" if you decide you don't like being a cop and want to do something else.

Maybe that's something should change, if criminal justice degrees offer some value to police training?

But that ties into the general question of how "portable" this qualification would be, and whether people would want to make a much longer commitment to police training than the standard academy if they're not sure whether they'll like being a cop. And, if all cops had bachelor's degrees, whether departments would have more trouble retaining them, with so many other job opportunities available to college graduates that have less downside.

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Perhaps it might be better to require all cops to go to academies, but require the academy profs to be educated at either the central university or programs accredited by it.

The profs can perform a lot of the same weeding out without necessarily reducing standards.

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* without reducing RECRUITMENT by increasing arbitrary educational standards across the board.

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That's kind of my thought process.

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May 19Liked by Ben Krauss

In my state (Mass.) there is a law (the Quinn bill) that entitles police to pay raises when they get degrees. The first raise comes through for a bachelor's degree, but additional raises are granted for a masters and Phd. It's been in effect since the early 70s, so it would probably be possible to study what effect that has had...

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I'm directionally onboard with this, but with major caveats. It would be extremely easy to create a masters in Ed situation for policing instead of a West Point. Fundamentally the incentives are in the law and the courts. You can't meaningfully shift policing towards advanced forensic investigations while pre-textual searches, focus on contraband, and deference to patrol officer hunches render the 4th amendment a cute suggestion.

Rigor is expensive. Drag nets are cheap. You're not going to change the culture of policing as long as the drag net is the politically and fiscally easy choice.

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May 18·edited May 18

Currently there are no requirements in any state for degrees but varying amounts of training from 320 to 800 hours at Police Academies (not the movies).

Before jumping to four years with an enormous expense, the first step might be to require a two year associates degree. in criminal justice.

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Understaffed departments exact a cost as well. And so do bad shoot lawsuits. I think this idea deserves consideration.

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>Cops in the United States are required to have an average of about 500 hours of training. In comparison, England requires nearly 2,500 hours of training, and Germany tops out at over 4,000 hours

What specifically are we measuring here with this number? My understanding is that all police officers have to go to a boot camp-style police academy in order to be certified. In my state it's 6 months, you live at the academy from Monday through Friday. That's..... pretty intensive. Does this mean that the Brits & Germans are doing a longer academy? Or some kind of additional training after the fact?

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May 18·edited May 18

From what I understand of the UK, if they already have a college degree they would do an abbreviated training relatively similar in classroom hours to what cops would do in the US. Or if they're coming in without a degree they can do a 3 year "police apprenticeship" that includes getting a policing-focused degree and some on the job training. It seems like a pretty good system that's in the spirit of this article.

From what I understand the 500 hour figure for the US in that comparison is a little bit misleading though, since it only includes the academy component. There is another period of field training after that, which lasts a similar amount of time. It also isn't counting any extra degree requirements, for departments that have those. As I understand it, in Europe, yes their training programs may last 2-3 years and may involve a degree, but that generally includes a lot of on the job and field work training work at the same time, it's not just in a classroom, so excluding the on-the-job training component in the US just because it's separate doesn't seem fair.

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Academies vary pretty widely in the US. As a rule of thumb, State police tend to go through a live in academy more similar to the military (or FLETC, which is essentially the federal police academy in Glynco, Georgia), where you live in on-campus dorms Monday through Friday. Other academies will tend to be 40 hour a week academies-mine was "technically" 8-5 with 1 free hour for lunch. I say technically because we had to be in formation at 0745, which, especially early in the academy, meant getting into the lockers at 0700 or a little earlier. This didn't include time spent studying outside academy hours, nor extra PT sessions. The bigger comparison challenge is, as has been pointed out, the inclusion of learning on the job.

IMPORTANT CAVEAT: I can only speak from experience for my own jurisdiction, which I will not be specifying. The FTO period lasts 3-6 months, generally speaking, with different departments having different norms. As I understand it, LAPD and NYPD tend towards longer FTO periods (any active or recently retired officers from those departments, feel free to correct or confirm). These departments also, as a rule, keep two officer patrol units, which I imagine allows for the longer FTO period as instead of tying up one unit in teaching the rookie, they progress the Rookie/FTO two-man unit into a fully functioning patrol unit. This accounts for an additional 500-1000 hours of training on the job, which to be frank, is really the only way to learn.

Beyond FTO, there is a period in which one's peers and supervisors are aware they're still learning. Most departments will have at least a year of probationary status, where the agency can pull the plug and fire someone more or less on the spot. Official and unofficial mentoring, making sure more seasoned officers are sent to calls as backup, frequent phone calls to the immediate supervisor for a WTF do I do question, and a general understanding within the department and the profession that it takes a few years to reach the point of full competency all fall into this process. It's not just police work that has this-many skilled trades such as plumbers and electricians follow this path, other first responders follow this route, the legal system has apprenticeship routes in many states, the medical system is built around this concept (strip away the titles, and a residency looks a lot like an apprenticeship), etc. It's interesting to read an article like this one https://www.economist.com/1843/2023/12/14/when-the-new-york-times-lost-its-way from the former editor of the Opinion department at the New York Times and see how journalism at one point followed this as well. Especially given that while trust in the police has fallen, it is still the one of the higher ranked institutions in those surveys, far above journalism.

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On one hand, yes, it would definitely be good to have colleges and universities with an active stake in researching policing-related questions, training police officers, encouraging smart young people to go into the field, and so on. On the other hand, I think it's a mistake to think that a 4 year college is the best place to do that. More hours of training? More standardized curriculum across the country? Sure, that's great. But that footnote about DC? I think both those requirements, the college credits and the military experience, are at best irrelevant and plausibly counterproductive to the mindset and skillset I would want police to have. To the first, spending time on campuses that are often actively culturally hostile to policing doesn't seem likely to attract good candidates or inculcate good assumptions about how police do or should treat people. To the second, police are guardians, not warriors, and we absolutely do not want police to treat the population they're policing like enemy combatants.

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I kind of like the idea of cop West Point for people in leadership positions. I still regularly think about this in depth look at Minneapolis’ police department from a few years ago:

https://minnesotareformer.com/2020/12/15/the-bad-cops-how-minneapolis-protects-its-worst-police-officers-until-its-too-late/

I think you could read this and reasonably come away from it with the attitude that they just need to get rid of the whole organization and start over. You could also read it and come away thinking “huh, so have they actually tried managing the department? What if we tried that?” I used to be on the board of a public sector union, and it is very possible to fire bad public employees. You just have to write some stuff down and go through a somewhat lengthy process.

All that said, there are many parts of the public sector (others in this thread have mentioned teaching) that have been carpet bombed with master’s degrees, and they basically all work worse than before that happened.

Maybe the main thing is that people should get in trouble for doing a bad job.

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I was required to do twice as many hours of training to become a hairstylist as the average cop in the US.

Somebody explain that.

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There's no competitive advantage for existing cops to making new cops go through onorus procedures to get a job, but there is for incumbent professionals.

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More people want to become hairstylists than cops, so less of a pipeline problem?

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Okay, I’ll bite! 🧐😉

The taboo against ruining a woman’s hair is REALLY strong.

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