August 4, 2020

In the wake of George Floyd, a question looms: Who should be an officer?

Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a four-part series that will examine policing in California following George Floyd’s killing and subsequent protests and calls for widespread reform. Part 1 explores how potential police officers are recruited and selected.

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Few job applications probe so deeply.

Have you ever called in sick when you were well?

Have you ever cheated on your taxes?

Have you ever sexted at work?

The application process for becoming a law enforcement officer – including a background check and psychological evaluation – is one of the most grueling, psyche-scrubbing, examinations you’ll ever find.

At the Los Angeles Police Department, for example, recruiters can boot you if you’ve told jokes using a “derogatory stereotype” or used force to get your way.

So, if the hiring standards aim to identify bigots, why do numerous recent studies, from the National Academy of Sciences and Texas A&M, among others, show rampant racial bias in police forces around the country?

Why do so many videos pop up showing police using violence against unarmed people like Eric Garner and Philando Castile and  George Floyd? And why are those images so often followed by other videos of police using violence against unarmed protesters?

And even if it’s true that the vast majority of police aren’t lashing out violently, why is excessive force – police hitting taxpayers, the people who pay their salaries – still a national problem, 29 years after Rodney King?

With the coast-to-coast demand for social justice and the increasing pressure on law enforcement to reform or get defunded, a fundamental question is:

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Who should be a police officer?

Evolving qualifications

Police leaders in California say hiring standards are tougher than ever, despite a drop in applications. Critics say good recruits might be getting hired, but they are ruined by old school supervisors who oversee their training and early work on the streets.

Police recruiters insist education and empathy are now more important than traditional physical attributes, like being able to scale a 6-foot fence or drag a 165-pound dummy. Hiring at the LAPD – one of the world’s biggest police forces, with about 9,000 sworn officers — emphasizes tact and diplomacy. That’s expected to be emphasized even more now that the city is moving $150 million out of the police budget and promising residents it will be a kinder, gentler department.

“(Change) doesn’t happen overnight,” said Los Angeles Councilman Gil Cedillo, who stresses matching officers with the right jobs and not expecting them to do things like COVID testing. “It takes time in the training, in the negotiations with the union.”

Cedillo says it starts with the job itself, and the employer, appealing to the right kind of person.

“Is this an LAPD that people want to join?”

Recruiters for Los Angeles and other departments are betting that seeking new qualities for recruits will trickle up, creating a different mindset in the force.

“When I got into it, 20 years ago, fitness was a big deal; military (experience) was a big deal. Now, it’s the totality of the person,” said San …read more

Source:: Los Angeles Daily News

      

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