Revamping The Policing System

Understanding USAs Systemic Racism

Nyla Pirani
5 min readJul 29, 2021

Racism is a global problem that has been affecting the Black community for far too long. Even though you sometimes can’t see it in such developed western society, it’s always been there.

With the recent “Black Lives Matter” protests blowing up all over the world people have been paying much more attention to racism and demanding action. But, it’s not enough.

Systemic Racism

Racism is a lot deeper than people think. It has infected the entire structure of society. In the school system where black students are 3x more likely to be suspended for the same infraction. In the justice system where black people represent 13% of the US population but 40% of the prison population. In health care with 67% of doctors having a bias against Black people. (Source)

This type of racism is called systemic racism, and even though you can’t see it at first glance, it’s very much there.

One of the most recently recognized forms of systemic racism is police brutality thanks to the huge BLM movement. Millions of people heard the stories of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor and realized immediately this was a problem. It blew up on social media, caught the attention of many powerful people around the world, and they estimated 15 — 26 million people protesting all over the US.

While they demanded action and we’re able to get Derek Chauvin (the police officer who killed George Floyd) sentenced to over 22 years and Brett Hankison (the police officer who killed Breonna Taylor) charged with “wanton endangerment”, this problem is a lot more complex.

The Root of Police Brutality

At the end of the day, this is a systemic problem mainly in the USA.

While police in the US killed 1090 people, there were zero deaths caused by police shootings in Norway in the same year.

This means we need to revamp the policing system including funding, policies, culture, and more. But let’s start at the very beginning of the system which is police training.

The Current System

Each year, an average of 45,000 entry-level officer recruits enter the basic police training programs and 86% of those recruits successfully complete their training.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the main requirement for police academy applicants is a high school diploma. In some cases, college coursework or a degree is required. Other qualifications might include a driver’s license, a clean criminal record and a physical fitness report from a doctor. Some academies also require a hearing test and a psychological evaluation.

At the police academy they focus on state laws, criminal investigations, patrol procedures, firearms training, traffic control, defensive driving, self-defense, first aid and computer skills. Recruits also take part in field exercises such as investigating mock criminal scenes, directing traffic, operating police vehicles, arrest techniques, using firearms, fingerprinting and interrogation methods.

Hourly Breakdown:

  • Recruits are required to take an average of 52 hours on patrol procedures training.
  • Recruits are required to take an average of 42 hours on investigations training.
  • Recruits are required to take an average of 38 hours on learning emergency vehicle operations.
  • Recruits spend an average of 25 hours on report writing training.
  • Recruits spend an average of 71 hours on firearms training, and 60 hours on self-defense training.
  • Recruits spend an average of 49 hours on fitness.
  • Recruits spend an average of 53 hours on learning constitutional law, and 23 hours on traffic law.
  • Some recruits also spent an average of 21 hours on the use of force, training on agency policies, de-escalation tactics, and crisis intervention strategies.

Overall the police academy training usually takes 22–27 weeks to complete.

What you can takeaway from this is that police academies spend 131+ hours on classes that escalate conflict and promote aggression like firearms training and selfdefense while only sometimes spending 21 hours giving officers training on de-escalation strategies. They even spend more time on constitutional law training than de-escalation strategies. This wires the officers to subconsciously choose force instead of de-escalating conflicts.

But it gets worse. 34 states don’t require de-escalation training at all which is one of the largest systemic flaws.

Importance of De-escalation:

De-escalation training is teaching the officers to use communication techniques to defuse potentially dangerous situations and it gives them strategies to more calmly deal with people who are experiencing mental and emotional crises.

This training has consistently shown a decrease in excessive force, and in overall use of force. For example, the Dallas Police Department, saw an 18% drop in use of force the year after it instituted de-escalation training. Since 2010, excessive force complaints there have dropped by 83%.

The training can use some work, but even just implementing it to begin with can have a huge impact. But more than half the US states don’t even require it. That is where the problem lies.

Understanding The Problem

Most states have boards with the power to require the training however most of them have failed to implement it. The it goes down to the local chiefs and sheriffs who have also failed to do so. The main reasons they continue to exclude this training is that they think it costs to much and it’s unnecessary.

However de-escalation training actually saves money for police forces. In a study of Louisville, Kentucky they compared officer training, increased emergency psychiatry visits, and hospital admissions resulting from CIT activity to the savings associated with diverted hospitalizations and reduced legal bookings.

Based on an average of 2400 Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) calls annually, the overall costs associated with CIT per year was $2,430,128 ($146,079 for officer training, $1,768,536 for hospitalizations of patients brought in by CIT officers, $508,690 for emergency psychiatry evaluations, and $6823 for arrests). The annual savings of the CIT were $3,455,025 ($1,148,400 in deferred hospitalizations, $2,296,800 in reduced inpatient referrals from jail, and $9825 in avoided bookings and jail time). That leads to $1,024,897 in annual cost savings.

That is only one study in one area where money can be saved.

On top of Dallas 83% drop in excessive force complaints Las Vegas, also, has reported a reduction in use of force and officer-involved shootings, which fell by more than half between 2012 and 2016, to just 10.

Next Steps

Systemic problems will take a lot of time to tackle but starting with implementing de-escalation training will make a huge difference. This aspect of training is very clearly an important part of becoming a police officer we just need to ensure the people making the training decisions understand the incentives for them, the police academies and the entire country.

Over the next month or two I may dive deeper into systemic racism and the policing system so if you want to learn more, follow me on medium and subscribe to my monthly newsletter to get updates right to your inbox.