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For example, three of the four stories mentioned on the cover of this month’s Officers’ actions are grounded in their expectations, and they are taught to expect the worst. Policing has risks—serious ones—that we cannot casually dismiss.The officers who shot John Crawford may have honestly believed that he was raising his rifle to a shooting position even though security camera footage shows him on the phone, casually swinging the BB gun back and forth. Over the last ten years, an annual average of 51 officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty according to data collected by the FBI.There have been too many lives lost to police killings.
But in most cases, it isn’t because individual police officers are consciously racist or think black lives don’t matter.
It is because officers perform the way they are trained to perform.
Training also needs to compensate for the unconscious racial biases that lead officers to perceive a greater threat from black men than from others.
Officers are not unique in that regard; implicit racial animus is depressingly common in society.
It is no surprise that the federal Department of Justice reviews de-escalation training (or the lack thereof) when it investigates police agencies for civil rights violations.
More comprehensive tactical training would also help prevent unnecessary uses of force.
As we’ve seen too many times, the results are beyond tragic.
Although it may be impossible to completely eliminate every aspect of unconscious bias, research strongly suggests that more sophisticated training could lead to more accurate threat identifications, correcting for racial bias that officers may not even be aware of.
They are shown painfully vivid, heart-wrenching dash-cam footage of officers being beaten, disarmed, or gunned down after a moment of inattention or hesitation.
They are told that the primary culprit isn’t the felon on the video, it is the officer’s lack of vigilance.