This week we learned about the training our police officers go through. It’s quite extensive. The time that it takes for someone to go from the initial application to the academy to a full-fledged police officer is at least a year and can be a year and a half, depending on whether you go to the academy full-time or part-time.
And the training never stops. Officers keep training throughout their careers. As they should.The most amazing thing I heard last night was this. We were listing all the qualities you’d want in a police officer, and of course good communication skills were paramount. The captain that was leading the class said that he is seeing a problem these days, one that he believes contributes to the difficulties that so many cities (not ours, so far) are having with police violence.
He said that one of the primary tools a cop has to de-escalate a situation is his communication skills. When the cops arrive, people are immediately stressed. There’s already a bad situation or the police wouldn’t need to be there. A cop with good communication skills can often talk the situation down. Calm everyone. Come to a resolution, arrest the bad guy, whatever, without ever firing a weapon. Maybe not even drawing it.
The problem is that so many of our young people have grown up texting instead of talking. Communicating virtually rather than face to face. They don’t have good oral communication skills. The minimum age for a cop in our city is 19. A 19-year-old who’s mainly communicated by texting is not naturally going to be able to de-escalate a situation. That has to be taught, and that takes a while.
I remember that the officer involved in the shooting in Ferguson, MO was only 21. Their force is much smaller than ours. I wonder if their training is as extensive? And if their superiors have as much concern for communication skills as our senior police do?