Recent fatal police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota have sparked outrage across the country. Many are now questioning the fundamental nature of policing in America -- and demanding change.
In today's Seeker Daily special report, Laura Ling investigates whether escalating incidents of police violence are having any effect on how police officers are being trained.
While calls for reform have become more insistent in recent years, there are actually no federal standards for how police officers are trained. Policies vary widely from department to department. But according to the most recent data from the Department of Justice, the majority of training time at police academy is spent on "hard skills" like self-defense and firearms use.
Critics contend that this leaves little time for the instruction of "soft skills" or what is commonly known as community policing. This approach includes training in communication, conflict management and relationship building.
RELATED: How Did Police Violence In The U.S. Get This Bad?
Sue Rahr, director of police training in the state of Washington, is co-author of a 2015 Harvard University study titled "From Warriors to Guardians: Recommitting American Police Culture to Democratic Ideals." The paper argues that current police training models encourage a "warrior mentality" that emulates military training. Rahr says we need to movie away from this mindset, in which the streets are treated as a battleground rather than a community.
Principles of community policing have been taught in police academies for decades. In 1994, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act led to the allocation of $14 billion dollars to community policing initiatives. But a 2014 review of the policies showed that while many departments have adopted community policing on paper, few have actually incorporated the principles in training and in the field.
Meanwhile, on the federal level, the Obama administration has strongly advocated for the use of police body cameras. Supporters of this approach say cameras will both hold officers accountable and reduce money spent on police misconduct allegations. Studies suggest that about 25 percent of departments in the U.S. are already using body cameras to some degree.
Aside from the tragedies we see in the headlines each day, the hard statistical numbers are grim. According to a recent report by the Washington Post, nearly 1,000 people were shot and killed by police in 2015.
Statistics suggest those numbers will be even higher in 2016.
-- Glenn McDonald
ResearchGate: Community-oriented policing to reduce crime, disorder and fear and increase satisfaction and legitimacy among citizens: a systematic review
Washington Post: 990 People Shot Dead by Police in 2015
Vox: Police academies spend 110 hours on firearms and self-defense. They spend 8 hours on conflict management.
Slate: Why Obama Is Making His Big Law Enforcement Speech in Camden, New Jersey