Police Behavior in the Time of Black Lives Matter

Tip of the Hat to Middle Township Police and Other Cape May Co. Authorities

The following, written by Margaret Harding McGill and Erica Pandey, appeared on Axios AM on Sunday, June 7. We are passing it on with permission.

The structural failings in American Policing began with officer training, which largely focuses more on using force than reducing the need for it.

Why it matters: While holding officers accountable is most important in stopping excessive force, law enforcement experts say that training focusing on empathy and de-escalating could lead to fewer violent conflicts.

There are more than 18,000 police departments in the U.S., but no federal standard on how their officers should be trained.

The training that officers do receive has little to no emphasis on empathy, says South Carolina criminology Professor Geoffrey Alpert.

“The real issue is not how to use force, it’s when to use it,” Alpert told Axios.

Rashown Ray of the Brookings Institute and the University of Maryland, who leads implicit-bias trainings for police departments and the military, notes that police departments “don’t do a lot of training that is focused on social interaction.”

“But nine out of 10 times, or even more, their job is simply having a conversation,” Ray said.

Franklin Zimring, a University of California-Berkeley professor and author of “When Police Kill,” says it would be possible to cut the number of fatal shootings in half by creating “don’t shoot and stop shooting rules.”

“It means a lot of confrontations will last longer, will involve more police officers and will be very frustrating,” Zimring said.

The Bottom Line: “The data is there telling departments what to do,” Ray said. “But until police departments are mandated to do it, they won’t do it.”

The Latest: On Friday (June 5, 2020), the Minneapolis Police Department agreed to ban the use of chokeholds.