Liability And De-Escalation Training Are Necessary For Police Reform

Police and Black Lives Matter activists during a Wynwood protest on June 5, 2020. Jesse Fraga/PantherNOW

Elizabeth McCann/Staff Writer

The recent killings of unarmed citizens like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and more have brought light to racism and police brutality that is still present in American society and American institutions. In response, thousands of petitions have been circulating online advocating for legislation to protect and uplift Black Americans.

A recent petition by Travis Washington advocates for the passing of a legislation titled the “Hands Up Act.” This act proposes legal punishment for officers who shoot unarmed citizens. Washington suggests a mandatory 15-year minimum prison sentence.

Excessive violence should be punished for the unneeded loss of a life. Though I am not sure if I agree with the amount of prison time suggested in the petition, I am sure that officers who commit these acts must be removed from service and convicted. 

There is an implicit bias in the police force that links Black people to crimes. This notion is not exclusive to police officers, but ordinary citizens too. Unfortunately, it has led to rash actions that have cost the lives of many African Americans.

How should this be prevented? 

It begins with society, but there are measures that must be taken within the police force. Enacting the “Hands Up Act” would be a good start.

I have read far too many headlines about victims losing their lives for not immediately putting their hands in visible sight to an officer, or because the officer mistook a harmless object (such as a hairbrush or wallet), for a gun. Nothing can atone for such a loss.

If police knew there to be a punishment at the other end of the bullet, then I guarantee many would resort to their guns less.

Thus, if police knew there to be a punishment at the other end of the bullet, then I guarantee many would resort to their guns less.

Along with legislation, there needs to be intense police reform—specifically, increasing police training with improved and mandatory de-escalation training.

The length of training of police officers needs to be drastically increased. In the United States, the average length of time required to complete police training is 840 hours. This is roughly completed in about 5 months. 

It is incomprehensible and alarming to me how a gun and authority can be given to a person in such a short amount of time. To put this lapse in perspective, the training of a barber takes approximately 1,500 hours.

In a study conducted by the Institute for Criminal Justice Training Reform, the United States had one of the top three lowest police training requirements out of the 80 countries being researched. 

In this increased police training, there should be a focus on de-escalation, or creating space and communication in a potentially dangerous situation between an officer and citizen. These tactics deviate from using physical force, which seems to escalate dangerous situations. 

Due to states and counties having jurisdiction over the training of their police officers, this specific training is not standardized for all police departments.

A 2016 survey from the Police Executive Research Forum showed that police officers in training have 58 hours of firearm training and 49 hours on defensive techniques, but only 8 hours on de-escalation and crisis intervention. 

Force should be the last result, but officers should be dedicated more than 1% of the total training time to learn methods that ensure no complications, injuries, or fatalities. 

Until we live in a country where racism does not affect police behavior, the “Hands Up Act” must be passed and de-escalation training must be expanded to ensure accountability in the police force to protect African Americans.

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The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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