Police Academy

I’ve mentioned before that my boyfriend is hours away and has been for a few months now. I am not sure if I’ve explained the reason he is out there though. You see, unfortunately my boyfriend, Nate, is attending the police academy. He accepted a job as a state park ranger without fully understanding that being a ranger is a law enforcement position that requires 6 months of police training. He was wanting a job where he could be outdoors and protect the environment. He was quite disillusioned with the whole thing when he found out what the job actually entailed.

Even though he now plans to find other work once he’s finished with his training, he is still going through with it. A big part of me was afraid for him. I’ve heard horror stories from other people I’ve known about their experience in the police academy. Especially considering he is everything that cops hate. He has a god damn “fuck cops” tattoo! Despite that, another part of me was excited to get an inside look at the way police are trained in this country.

With only roughly two months left of this training, it is disheartening to know how insufficient it has been. I would love for him to write about this experience himself, but in the meantime, I’d like to explain what he’s told me. So far the curriculum has been as follows:

1. Instill Fear

The training started out with a healthy dose of indoctrination. The cops are in constant danger. Your life is on the line at every moment. Everyone you encounter is trying to kill you. Your job is to kill them first. This is essentially the message that they hammer into you immediately. Nothing about your duty to protect and serve the public. Just riling up distrust and terror and assuring you that you are allowed and even encouraged to act from that place of fear. They don’t waste any time to establish an “us vs. them” mentality. Now I can’t say this is exactly the words the instructors are using, but it’s clearly the underlying message.

For at least the first month Nate was there, all they did was watch video after video of cops being killed on the job. Of course this was not put into any kind of context. There were no statistics, just a collection of anecdotal incidents from all across the country for an undisclosed range of time. I don’t believe they even discussed how the cop could have more safely handled the situation. It was quite literally only part of the training to spark fear. In addition to these videos, the trainees are also told to keep a running list of names of cops that have been killed. Clearly they intend fear to be front and center in the mind of every cop that responds to a call, no matter how innocuous.

2. Misinformation

The next part of this “training” was to give straight up bullshit information about domestic terrorism. I knew when he mentioned this part that it was going to be bad, but I had no idea just how bad. Obviously white supremacy groups are the number one domestic terror threat in the United States. Yet groups like the Proud Boys, the KKK, neo-nazis, etc. were not mentioned AT ALL. Who did they mention then, you might be asking. Well, I’ll tell you. They basically only mentioned liberal “groups” such as Black Lives Matter and Antifa (which aren’t even true organizations), and animal rights groups like PETA and The Animal Liberation Front. (These people are laughably considered terrorists because they hurt the profits of corporations.) So as you can tell there is a very clear political influence in this training. It is not objective facts and relevant knowledge. It’s right-wing indoctrination for the most part.

3. Combat Skills & Firearms

Finally, after months of stoking fear and naming “enemies,” the real fun begins. Now these young men and women who have been terrified, misinformed, and primed in the worst ways possible are handed a loaded gun and taught how to fight and kill people. They spend over 40 hours practicing firing a myriad of different weapons. As you might imagine at this point, they spend less than a day learning about and practicing using pepper spray or tasers.


THIS is the problem with law enforcement in this country: the unconscionable training. Can you really blame the police for behaving the way they do when this is what they are being taught? They are barely taught any valuable, relevant information for their day to day work as an officer. They are mainly taught to be afraid and to kill the citizens they are supposed to be protecting before those citizens kill them. Throughout this entire 6 month training, not once has de-escalation been brought up or taught in any capacity. These people are sent out into the streets with no idea how to handle the situations they are about to face, other than to use deadly force.

I was grateful to get an inside look at the root of the problem with policing in this country. It is disheartening to be sure, but interesting nonetheless. It honestly makes me worried knowing Nate has to sit through so many hours of this type of harmful indoctrination disguised as “training.” Even though he knows it’s all nonsense, it still has an impact subconsciously.

My point here isn’t to demonize the police or inspire hatred and mistrust. I simply want to shine a light on the real reason that innocent people are being killed every day at the hands of law enforcement. These cops are not all monsters. Sure, some of them are, but a lot of them are just genuinely scared for their lives. From the outside, it looks like they have absolutely no reason to be in many of these situations that end in death, but once you understand how they’ve been trained, it makes a bit more sense. Nothing is going to change until we change this god awful training, and I can’t wait until my boyfriend is safely out of that place.

Training / Police Academy | Odessa, TX

Diversity

Up until a few years ago I was among the group of people that thought: All cops are bad. All cops are fascists’, class traitors, bullies, white supremacist’s, etc. Then I started working at my new job. Now I work closely with child protective services and the local police and sheriff’s offices. I even felt uncomfortable about that at first. I was worried I’d accidentally say something to get myself in trouble. I was worried they would be complete assholes, sexists, victim blamers. I was worried they’d find out I’m a liberal, yoga teaching, vegan and mock me or even despise me.

To my surprise, working with the police was not the experience I was expecting at all. It’s honestly left me pretty conflicted about where I stand in regard to law enforcement. As a child, we’re taught that cops are the good guys. They’re here to protect us and help us. Then we become teenagers and cops are the enemy. Now I’m a young adult and I’ve come full circle. Cops are just people. Some are good, some are bad, most are a complex mixture of the two just like we all are.

My sister is still very much in the mindset that all cops should be hated. To her, they are still all racists and monsters. She won’t even listen to me talk if the story involves one of my new cop friends. Which saddens me, because a lot of these guys are just that, my friends. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d ever say that. But I genuinely love interacting with a lot of the officers we work with. They are kind, funny, intelligent people. I genuinely value all that they do to help the children that we meet here. I see how much these cases affect them. I see the big, muscly, tattooed, bald cop tearing up at the story a little girl tells. I see how hard he works to put her rapist behind bars. He shows me pictures of his daughter’s pet rabbit, who loves him. Once he even tried to set me up with his son, and I was hopeful that it may work out and he would be my father in law some day. That’s how much I respect and admire this man!

The point I’m trying to make here isn’t that cops are good and we should all love the cops. Obviously, as we see on the news every day, there are cops killing innocent people for no reason all over the country. In no way am I trying to minimize that or make excuses for it. I’m just trying to highlight the importance of personally getting to know people from different groups before judging them. Just like I was able to be critical of all cops until I personally met some, people that don’t know any individuals of a certain minority group are far more easily able to lump them all together in harmful stereotypes. It’s nearly impossible to generalize about a group of people when you know and work with members of said group.

Ignorance breeds hatred. We fear what we don’t understand. Rather than sit with the fact that we don’t know much about different cultures and ethnicities, we prefer to pigeon hole them through generalizations. I hear a lot of talk about the value and importance of diversity, but I don’t often hear any explanation as to why this is so essential to society. I think my own experience has taught me that. And I am so grateful that I’ve had this chance to learn something so important.

It may be easy to see the harmful biases that others hold, but we can’t control the way the people around us view the world. Perhaps it’s more important for us to look inward. No one is free from biases and prejudice. Some are certainly more harmful and systemic than others, but nonetheless we’ve all got them. Not only do these judgements hurt others, but they hurt the ones who are doing the judging as well. What a crime it is to close ourselves off from the vast complexity of the world by trying to shove everything and everyone into neat little boxes. Keep your heart and mind open. Don’t decide who other people are, let them show you.