police reform

(Margaret Tran / Daily Titan) 

This year, 742 lives were cut short at the hands of law enforcement. Earlier this year, the Black Lives Matter movement held protests nationwide after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Multiple people witnessed as Floyd was held down by officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, cutting off Floyd’s airway and resulting in his death.

The first of many protests for Floyd’s justice began the following day. Millions of people around the world gathered to protest, making Black Lives Matter one of the largest movements the nation has ever seen. Unfortunately, many of the protests turned violent and police used tactical forces to disengage the crowds. Tear gas was released, rubber bullets were shot and in several unnerving cases, protestors were hit by police cars.

Despite efforts from millions of protestors, police brutality still remains a huge problem. Police officers have killed hundreds of people per year and many officers haven’t faced any consequences for these lethal actions.

People of color should not be afraid to walk down the street or find it hard to trust the people who are supposed to protect them. 

To find the solution, it’s imperative to look within. It comes down to making the proper changes within the police department to limit the number of deaths by officers. 

Everyone needs to understand that not all police departments are created equal and not all abide by the same policies. It’s crucial for each department to implement proactive methods like restrictive on-duty policies, mental health screenings, more extensive training, stricter requirements and reallocating funds in order to make a real difference with this issue of police violence. 

There are eight policies that officers can follow which may greatly reduce the chances of violent outcomes from use of force. 

These policies include requiring warning before shooting, de-escalation, exhausting all alternatives prior to shooting, comprehensive reporting, a ban to prohibit shooting at moving vehicles, use of force continuum, a ban for chokeholds and the duty to intervene, according to the campaign #8CantWait by Campaign Zero, an organization with the goal to end police violence in America.

While these may seem like methods that police departments should enforce at all times, clearly they are not. Reducing unethical use of force practices can stop future instances of police brutality before they occur. 

Aside from policy changes, the training programs to become a police officer are hardly extensive enough. 

In California, police are required to do basic training for 664 hours, which can typically take someone six months or less to complete. In comparison, obtaining a cosmetology license requires a total of 1600 hours in training. It’s hard to believe that learning to do hair or makeup requires double the training period of a job which requires handling a gun and dealing with life-threatening scenarios.

Most of the 911 calls received by dispatchers are for nonviolent encounters, including instances where people with mental health issues or special needs are in need of assistance. 

A report from the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law found that 25% of all civilians shot by police in 2018 had a mental illness. Considering that some departments have extensive funding, like Fullerton’s proposed 2020-21 estimated $50 million police budget, a portion of this money could go to training specifically for mental health support. 

Reallocating these funds to provide for mental health services and train officers to  de-escalate these situations will greatly reduce the number of unnecessary violent police encounters. 

Along with training, applicants are required to take a medical exam. The exam consists of obtaining medical records and passing a physical exam. The records indicate whether the applicant has had any previous physical health conditions that would keep them from being able to perform all duties needed.

However, an essential attribute that is absent from the exam is a mental health screening of each potential officer. These screenings test for personality traits, some of which include, impulse control, judgment, personal bias or lack of bias, motivation to join law enforcement, and appropriate attitudes towards sexuality.

Many officers involved in police brutality cases may be repeat offenders like Chauvin who alone has had 18 previous complaints filed against him. 

Not only are there high levels of misconduct in the workplace, but many reports of domestic abuse toward partners and children have been filed. At least 40% of families of police officers experience domestic violence, compared to the 10% of families that experience domestic violence overall, according to a report from Hofstra University. 

This pattern of abuse of power could potentially correlate to mental health issues. If rigorous psychological screenings were required in every department, it would aid in singling out individuals who are at a higher risk of abuse.

Taking these on-duty policies and preventative measures into account, police departments nationwide can greatly reduce the cases of police brutality annually in the U.S. by enforcing these key factors.

There are some jobs that simply cannot have “a few bad apples” and law enforcement is one of them.

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