Let’s change gears here for a moment. As many of you know, I have a background in law enforcement and security. I spent many years studying criminal justice and served as a reserve police officer for several years. I was responsible for a hospital security program for over three years and worked as a security officer for several years before that promotion. With the police in the news on a daily basis and officers being targeted and shot, it’s time to share some background info that the public isn’t typically aware of.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a criminal justice or police expert. These are merely opinions based on personal observations and experiences.
Some police departments provide more training then others. GASP! I know, that’s hard to believe but it’s true. Typically, the larger the police department, the less training officers receive. Shocking isn’t it? Most people would think it’s the opposite. But there isn’t as much time or money available. It’s imperative to “get those bodies out on the streets” to serve, well-trained or not.
I remember when I began as a security officer and my husband asked, “Will you receive any training before you start?” Luckily, I did. About a week’s worth of training on how to work in hospital security as well as how to control an out-of-control person. I didn’t think it was enough, but it was definitely better than every other security program out there.
It’s hard to believe that police departments would cut corners on training, but they do. I know of a department that wanted to cut an arrest control program because of the cost of the program. This particular program was superior to all other programs on how to control a person utilizing a form of martial arts. With this program, officers learned how to gain control of a person without resorting to punching and kicking (unless absolutely necessary). It’s definitely a more gentle approach but to learn the techniques takes about twice as much time annually as most other arrest control programs. And of course, costs more both with funding the program and instructors and the time officers need to become trained. Financially, it made sense to cut it. Ultimately, the department chose the right thing and kept the program despite the costs.
In addition, most other arrest control programs are violent. They teach officers how to fight instead of control. “Beat them to submission,” is the model. This is the kind of program you typically see on the news when officers have swarmed a person and are beating on them. Sometimes, officers lose all skills and just resort to their personal defensive mode. After all, who wouldn’t? It’s easy for the average person to say they would have just done _____ instead of beating the person when they weren’t physically fighting with someone. Have you ever been in a physical fight? If not, shut your mouth!
I remember fighting with combative patients in the hospital. You try your best to remember all your skills but then the person starts to overtake you and the others in the room. Then what? We would have to resort to personal defense because if we allowed them to overtake us, they would have the ability to hurt so many more people. Law enforcement is no different and in fact, the environment is dramatically different than fighting with a combative in a jail or hospital. Those are confined areas. We all have seen what happens in open areas when a combative suspect gets away. That person may steal a car (perhaps with a child inside) and wreak havoc and destruction numerous times..
As someone who tested with many different police departments before finding my police home, I can tell you that each department has their own unique way of recruiting. Some have a civil service commission which attempts to weed out people through formularies. Others weed them out by counting files. For example, “1-2-3, out.” That 4th file could have been one of the best candidates.
Having a civil service commission is supposed to reduce bias but as someone who experienced being weeded out through bias, it still happens. Applicants still have to fit a “profile” and are often not chosen based on their experience and test scores. Throw in the demographics of race and it gets more complicated. Police departments hire applicants from different racial backgrounds to fit a profile the community desires, but this is a slippery slope.
Other departments have different systems such as a final interview with the chief of police or sheriff who gets to choose which applicant they want. Sounds great but this isn’t a perfect system either. If the chief doesn’t like the clothing you wear that day or any other aspect of your presentation to him/her, the applicant will be passed over. It doesn’t matter how good your file looks nor how well you tested.
Still other departments fit applicants into pass/fail categories. Seems easy enough but there it is still a struggle. Qualified applicants may be deficient in one area where they could certainly benefit from training and excel but it’s a pass/fail so even if they score really high in say, community relations, if they couldn’t type fast enough, they are passed over.
I talked a little above about training and funding cuts but there are also many other issues when it comes to budgets. Let me talk about one in particular that really needs attention and I believe will help dramatically. It definitely falls in-line with training too.
When I was in the police academy, it was ingrained in us that if you use the Taser on someone or the person is having a medical issue and needs attention, you call for medical personnel (rescue). Shoot someone? Call rescue! Beat someone? Call rescue! Use a particular control hold? Call Rescue! Administer CPR until rescue gets there.
What have we been seeing with some of the police cases in the news recently? Failure to render medical attention. The Baltimore Police Case is a prime example. Suspect asks for medical attention and none is received. Suspect becomes unresponsive and no one calls for rescue. I saw this same thing in the Walter Scott case. He is shot but rescue was never called.
Yes, he is cuffed immediately. ALL suspects need to be cuffed immediately but medical attention can still be rendered. It may not have changed the outcome and with Walter Scott it is unlikely rescue would have arrived in time anyway but they should still be called. And officers are trained in CPR and could have provided aid instead of just standing over him as he bled out. Again, the outcome may not have been changed but family members would have seen the attempt to save his life after he was shot. And that can be VERY comforting.
So what does this have to do with budgets? Medical attention provided to suspects in police custody is the financial responsibility of the police department. This can get very costly, especially when suspects in custody understand the system. Fake a heart attack…delay going to jail and maybe get a nice meal before they head there.
Are police departments secretly informing their officers not to call for medical attention because of the financial ramifications. Oh this sounds awful! Don’t render medical attention because we (police department) are going to have to pay for it!
It’s sickening but the reality is, if a person is in police custody, the police department foots the medical bills for treatment. This is why, when working in hospital security, I would see violent in-custody suspects being “unarrested” while in the hospital and my security team (who was unarmed during this tenure) was left to control a violent and dangerous person. “If he isn’t in our custody, we don’t have to pay for his medical bills and we don’t have to pay for an officer to sit with him.” This can be a huge financial burden.
I explicitly remember a case where a suspect beat up an officer very badly. He broke a shoulder and hurt two other officers in their attempts to control him. He arrived at the hospital combative and partially restrained. He was “unarrested” when he arrived and officers asked us to call them when he was being discharged (which is against HIPAA by the way). But nursing staff wanted him to go to jail because of his history and how horrible of a person they felt he was. So they called anyway.
While he was there, he hurt several staff members and required hard restraints and drugs to calm him down. The price of “budget” cuts is bigger than we can see.
So what do we do about these issues?
A lot of this comes down to money. Money is almost always involved in every situation. Cutting budgets and financial corners is putting the public at risk. Some communities are more at risk and experience more trauma due to these issues. I see police cameras are becoming a popular solution. I think police cameras are great but unless we get to the root of the issue AND address those roots, we will not see change. We will see more officers in jail and still see the same amount of deaths.
Sure, that family received what we call “justice” by the officer going to jail for a crime they committed but wouldn’t we rather never have the suspect turned victim hurt/killed in the first place? No one wants to suffer. Grief sucks BIG TIME! Parents aren’t designed to bury their children and children aren’t designed to be raised without parents. Can we attack these root issues now?