Training: A Complimentary Piece but Nowhere Near the Root of the Problem

Training is important part of the police department and classes are necessary, however this was not the cause of the problem. If we take officer Rincon as an example; would we really want an officer who needs a class on how to not sexually molest 12 women? (the City has filed the papers to fire him). The officers who attacked Kelly Thomas shot him multiple times in the chest with a taser; they are specifically trained not to do this because it can be fatal due to the proximity to the heart. They are specifically trained to turn and leave on their digital audio recording (DAR) devices. Officer Rincon and others turned the recorders off before every major incident that was complained about despite city policy that they should always be on when engaging the public. When officers abuse their power and victimize the people it is not usually because they weren’t trained properly but because they knowingly violated their training. Ex-police chief and City Council member Pat McKinley even says in his interview that they had to greatly reduce the size of flashlights because in a fight they would be used to beat people and goes on to say that blows to the head are never supposed to be used and are never a part of training (see that video here at 5 minutes in If you can’t train officers to not use flashlights as weapons then what can you train them to do? You can fire them for using their flashlight but the problem is that the state won’t let us do that. If you take consequences out of a person’s judgments’ you’re going to get a person who makes extremely poor decisions. Perhaps Kelly Thomas would still be alive if the officers knew they would get in trouble for doing so, and perhaps many women would not have been violated if the officer in question knew that turning off his recorder would lead to termination.

The fact that the US has one of the largest prison systems in the world with one of the highest prisoners per capita in the world proves we believe in repercussions. So why don’t we prosecute and fire more bad officers? Mostly because we expect people to make false reports about officers. If every criminal that was upset filed a complaint against an officer and it took an officer off duty we wouldn’t have any officers within a week, so we often disregard complaints unless they are serious in nature. Also it costs a lot of money to train an officer so we do not want to lose the capital we paid to train them and spend it again trying to train someone else. These things along with the union push and general public consent for longer and more ridiculous steps in the procedure to terminate an officer, led to a broken system. It is broken because it drowns real justice in a sea of red tape. Too much bureaucracy makes any system stagnant and renders it useless. In the private sector your boss can fire you on the spot if you do something bad enough. He does not have to go through 12 long steps to fire you. If companies kept employees who behaved this way, customers would choose not to go there and the company would go bankrupt. So how do corrupt police departments stay in business? Because we are the customers and we have to pay! Technically speaking we are all collectively the boss of any civil servant, yet we cannot fire them or reprimand them even if they murder, beat, humiliate, and murder us.

Clearly this is not a training issue but the obvious outcome of a shift in power away from the people and towards government institutions. We need to tell Sacramento that we need the power to fire and prosecute an officer. We need to demand that if they can search us with only probable cause that we can take them off the streets and stop paying them if there is probable cause. Training for dealing with the mentally ill does need to happen, but to say that Kelly died because of a lack of training is an egregious mistake. Ramos said “Now see my fists? They are getting ready to F you up!” He had criminal intention and he knew that what he was doing was wrong. He did it not because of a lack of training but because he knew that nothing would happen. He assumed that the people wouldn’t care about a homeless man and he knew that he could hide behind a long procedure that would eventually just excuse his actions. Criminal defense lawyers know that if they drag out a case, the consequences will be less severe and the chances that his client will walk are much higher. The system uses a cheap trick that it embedded into itself, one that is used by sleazy criminal defense lawyers in order to derail justice. If you want real change it’s going to take a real effort, by accepting increased training as a solution we are trying to stop an avalanche with popsicle sticks. We need to fix the system which will inherently fix those within the system or expel them from their ranks. It is a state problem and it will require a state solution to truly be fixed and not merely bandaged.

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