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.
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.