The police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis earlier this year sparked a series of protests against police brutality and police conduct that have not stopped. Despite the United States being a “developed” country, the police force in the U.S. is not as effective in police training as other countries, which is the root cause of some of the problems surrounding police brutality.
The U.S. police do not have standards for what police recruits should learn and only spend about 21 weeks on average to become an officer. Technical skills are taught over how to exercise restraint and how to communicate in tough situations. For example, police recruits spend on average 71 hours on firearm skills and only 21 hours on de-escalation training, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
On top of this, police also respond to calls that are outside their expertise and training. While police perform the usual duties of patrolling communities, investigating crime, and making arrests, they also respond to mental health crises and domestic disputes. Not having the proper training leads to unnecessary escalation and an excessive use of force. In 2018, approximately 25% of all people shot and killed by police were experiencing a mental health crisis, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.
On March 23, Rochester, New York, police responded to a mental health distress call for Daniel Prude, who naked and bleeding in the middle of a street. Three officers pushed him to the ground and placed a hood over his head. One officer then pressed his knee on Prude’s back until he died. If these officers were better trained for this situation, Prude may still be alive.
Between 2013 and 2019, American police officers have killed an estimated 7,666 people, whereas 224 people were killed by Canadian police during the same time.
A quick look at how the police is run in other countries shows exactly how bad the situation is here in the U.S.
While the U.S. has 18,000 different law enforcement agencies, each with different training programs, countries like Sweden have a single national police force that is organized and overseen by the federal government.
While the U.S. only requires 21 weeks of training, other countries require up to three years. Recruits in Finland and Norway have to have a degree in criminal justice or related fields and must complete an internship with local police. Both countries also go years without a police-related death.
Rather than focusing on skills like firearm training, recruits in the U.S. could learn how to avoid using force, like officers do in Germany.
The U.S. currently spends a collective $100 billion a year on police funding along with $80 billion for incarceration, according to the Center for Popular Democracy.
The U.S. needs to look at other models of supporting a police force because the lack of proper training and overfunding is causing too much harm.