The folks over at Bolt have written about how change at one of the country’s worst urban police departments is failing to effectively train cops, many of them combat veterans, that the streets they patrol are not battlefields, and the public is not the enemy:
After almost two years of inquiry, state officials in Minnesota released a blistering assessment of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) in late April, documenting what it called “a culture of unquestionable compliance and aggression” within the city’s police force.
The investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) documented rampant racism, unwarranted searches and seizures, reckless and inappropriate use of force, and outright belligerence toward the public. The findings were simultaneously shocking and unsurprising given the long history of abuses by Minneapolis police, the murder of George Floyd in 2020, and last year’s trial of the officer who killed him.
They underscore the failures of the training reforms implemented by Minneapolis officials to change the toxic culture of its police department. In 2019, Mayor Jacob Frey announced the city would ban so-called warrior cop training, which paints neighborhoods as battlefields and police as front-line soldiers saving society from lawlessness. At the time, Frey said the city had already eliminated such fear-based, warrior training from its own police academy, and that he aimed to ban officers from attending similar outside training off-duty—a ban that the local police union said it would immediately defy.
These reforms apparently haven’t stuck, according to the recent state investigation, which says a “warrior mindset” still pervades training at the city’s police academy from the day cadets start.
“Broadly, a review of MPD’s Academy training and MPD’s written training materials demonstrates that MPD trainings establish a warrior mindset with officers from their very first day as new MPD officer hires,” the report states. The paramilitary approach to training that the city still uses stresses unquestioned obedience to superiors and positions community members as the enemy, according to the report, and undermines policies for officers to intervene or report unauthorized force, “instilling an us-versus-them mentality early in officers’ careers with MPD.”
The persistence of warrior-style training in Minneapolis speaks to the difficulty of changing police culture and of uprooting a long history of police militarization. For the past forty years, Congress has supported—both rhetorically and financially—the integration of military tactics, arms, and intelligence gathering techniques into state and local police forces, resulting in a 1,500 percent increase in SWAT units from the early 1980s to the early 2000s, according to some estimates.
Of course, along with this crazy increase in military-style tactics and equipment is the preference many police departments give to military veterans. These men and women, who have often deployed overseas in combat situations, patrol the streets like they are still looking for insurgents in Kabul and Bahgdad. Many of them have untreated PTSD and other mental health problems — and many of them end up in command positions where they impart a kill-or-be-killed ethos to those under them.