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

Forgiveness

Yesterday I mentioned that I was kinda peeved about my sister’s boyfriend drinking all my vodka. Given the hangover I have today from drinking at Christmas dinner, I’m actually glad he did. Otherwise I would have probably gotten even more drunk last night. Either way, I had decided not to hold it against him. He is a pretty cool guy overall. I even ended up supplying him with cigarettes. All of our local shops were closed for the holiday, and he couldn’t buy his own.

Now normally, this would have only soured me to him even more. But it actually felt good to let all that petty nonsense go. It was nice to just enjoy helping someone else out. It feels much better than getting salty about every little thing. So I was able to forgive him for all of his minor transgressions and enjoy sharing my family holiday with him.

However, this morning as I groggily rolled myself out of bed, I was filled with shame and regret. For probably the hundredth time I got WAY too drunk and practically blacked out while spending a holiday with my family, who by the way, don’t really drink. I genuinely don’t even remember getting home or going to bed last night. I feel like shit this morning, though. Physically and mentally. I can’t believe I made the same humiliating mistake once again.

I’ve started thinking about how good it feels to forgive other people though. I really wish it was as easy to be able to forgive myself. I’m sure yesterday wasn’t even a big deal to anyone besides me. I think I’ve always just been afraid to forgive myself. Somewhere along the line that idea of operant conditioning, of punishment and reward, really stuck in my brain. I am always trying to train other people to behave in the ways I want them to. I am always trying to train myself in this way. If I forgive myself, how will I learn?

I can remember implementing this technique far before I ever learned about it in any academic setting. It seems like common sense. If you are punished for doing something you will avoid doing it. If you are rewarded in some way you will try to repeat the behavior in the future. Yet everyday life is not often so straightforward. Real life behaviors are not isolated in a scientific setting.

My relationship with myself cannot be that black and white either. I don’t have to keep punishing myself for my mistakes. I recognize my flaws, and forgiving myself for them is not the same as encouraging them. Besides I’m not really even following the laws of operant conditioning correctly. When was the last time I gave myself a reward for doing something well? Maybe never. The only thing I’ve been “training” myself to do is to be unhappy, to never believe in myself, to think I am not good enough.

Rather than make this cold, hungover Saturday even harder by beating myself up, I am going to be kind to myself today. I deserve kindness. I deserve forgiveness, especially from myself. I don’t have to forbid myself from the happiness and comfort I may find today because of what happened yesterday. That isn’t going to make me a better person. Love and forgiveness isn’t going to make me a worse person. Today I am going to be gentle with myself. I am going to rest and make myself comfortable. I am going to forgive myself.

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