Total Overhaul of Policing and Police Training

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While the country reels from the pain of yet another senseless killing of an unarmed black person at the hands of the police, we must decisively channel our anger and grief toward actionable change. We must strike now with concrete demands while we have the ear of the nation. Now is the time to call for a specific, systemic overhaul to the way we train our police across the United States.

According to mappingpoliceviolence.org, in 2019, of the 1,099 people killed by police, black people accounted for 24% despite being only 13% of the population. Black people were also 1.3x more likely to be unarmed when killed compared to white people. Where you live matters as well, with black people being 6x more likely to be killed by police in Oklahoma than Georgia. And 8 of the 100 largest city police departments kill black men at higher rates than the U.S. murder rate.

Now is the time for a universally accepted, new set of standards for entry into the police force. Police should complete, at a minimum, the same standard of education and training that is required for public school teachers. The current national education standard to become a police officer is a high school diploma. All state governors, mayors, and local legislatures should immediately require all aspiring police officers to complete the following training:

1) A bachelor's degree in a related field: Psychology, Sociology, Criminology, Criminal Justice, Communications, or Public Health.

2) A thorough credentialing program before entering the police academy lasting a minimum of 1 year or 24 credit hours (2 semesters at 12 credit hours each). The credentialing program should include courses relevant to a police officer's job: historical data and demographics of their jurisdiction, mental health training, nonviolent communication training, de-escalation practices, substance abuse training, and a thorough study and discussion of the United States Constitution, to which they will ultimately swear an oath.

3) Minimum 4 months of full-time Police Academy training, with a focus on the physical and tactical training required for the job.

4) 2 full years of provisional policing under direct shift-supervision, where no firearm is issued until successful completion of the full 2 years of on-the-job training. This provisional period should also require monthly reporting and debriefing with supervisors as an extension of the best practices learned in the credentialing program.

5) Minimum 3 credit hours per year of required professional development for the duration of their careers in order to qualify for retirement. These workshops should include additional training on conflict resolution, nonviolent communication, mental health, racial bias, and substance abuse. These academic fields of study inevitably improve over the course of a long policing career, and officers must stay abreast of best practices.

6) Include a grandfather clause to allow current officers to bypass the bachelor's and credentialing program, but not the required professional development. However, officers that wish to step down and complete the education and credentialing should be incentivized to do so with stipends and/or paid leave, including time-credit toward retirement.

7) Required reporting of all use of force during every shift, to include any use of force used to restrain, take down, arrest, detain, or discharge a firearm. 

8) Quarterly review on each officer's use of force, using body cam footage where necessary. Implement firearm restrictions for officers who fall within a prescribed scope of excessive force during quarterly review. Return offending officers to 6 months provisional policing under shift-supervision (without a firearm) until further review after the 6-month period concludes.

9) Mandated body cameras, with archived recordings for the full duration of every officer's tenure with any police department. Video data can be converted to external-drive storage and treated as archived evidence after 3 years in order to accommodate this massive data collection.

10) Minimum 2 hours per month, paid time-off to complete mental health screenings, therapy, and group support for all officers, with an easy route to petition for additional paid hours for therapeutic support after officers lawfully discharge their weapon during a shift.

With this basic framework, we can change the future of policing in our nation. Governors are free to add additional requirements they deem relevant as they work with mayors in specific municipalities. We must use our voice and take action for concrete and lasting change. Let us not allow all these tragic killings to be in vain. We stand in solidarity with black and minority communities in demanding police reform NOW.

This petition will be sent to the following organizations:

International City/County Management Association
Council of State Governments
National Association of Counties
National Conference of State Legislatures
National Governors Association
National League of Cities
United States Conference of Mayors

Photo by Dai Sugano