News

Guest opinion: A police explorer's perspective on how to improve police training

In December 2019, at the age of 15, I graduated as class president of the Peninsula Law Enforcement Exploring Academy. The academy is for young people ages 14 to 21 who are interested in a career in law enforcement. It is recognized as a valuable first step in the profession. In fact, the chief, deputy chief, and my adviser from my city’s department are all graduates of the exploring academy.

Upon completion, graduates proudly receive their department’s explorer uniform and go on ride-alongs, volunteer at community outreach events, and assist with overnight security for city events.

For nine consecutive Sundays, I crawled out of bed at 5 a.m. and didn’t return home until 13 hours later.

In the academy, 0730 means physical training. By 0830, we are sweaty and exhausted. We struggle into the academy mandated T-shirts and attempt to look presentable. By 0835, we’re lined up in our squads, shirts tucked in, belts fastened, and at ‘attention.’ We march into the classroom and stand before our chairs. We recite the three rules of academy: Never quit. Be responsible. Look after your own.

We settle in for a series of two- to four-hour lectures on law enforcement topics. These topics include traffic, juvenile, and criminal law; patrol procedures; narcotics; firearms; crime scene investigation; and communications. Occasionally, the monotony of taking notes is broken by additional physical training as punishment for sleeping or swearing. 1200 is lunchtime. By 1230, we’re back in the classroom for more lectures, or if we’re lucky, practical training.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Mountain View Online for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

Throughout the 100-hour academy, we lit flares and used batons. We felt the kickback of a firearm and were sent, by ourselves, into the woods at night for search-and-rescue practice.

One day, our training officer pulled out his finger guns and yelled “Bang!” He explained, “You always have to be ready. When there’s a gun out, somebody’s getting shot. Is it going to be you or them?”

Never quit. Be responsible. Look after your own.

When finger guns are exchanged for real guns, the mindset of “looking after you own” can be deadly. The officers who killed Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks chose “them.” The officer who killed Jacob Blake chose “them.” Americans are rightfully furious. The thin blue line, instead of representing a separation between crime and society, is beginning to represent the line between officers and their community.

In America, policing is seen as a threat to personal safety for many people of color. It begs the questions: How can we make policing an admirable profession again? How do we teach future officers to be better? How can we raise the standards of policing to ensure justice includes social justice?

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

My experience suggests three answers to these critical questions.

First, police departments must work toward reaching a critical mass of Black and minority officers to reduce fatal encounters with Black people. To combat difficulty hiring minorities, departments can expand community outreach programs, like the explorer program, and offer subsidized higher education as an incentive to join the force. College-educated officers are shown to be 41% less likely to fire their weapon.

Second, basic academy training must emphasize whom officers are protecting: the community. Instead of elective community policing seminars in some departments, basic training should be based on community policing philosophy to create a new policing culture.

The immersive environment provided by technologies like virtual reality may be effective in educating officers on racism and others’ experiences.

Third, officers must model a commitment to keeping the community safe – not just chasing after criminals. Impressionable training practices like the finger gun demonstration instill an ‘us vs. them’ mentality within future officers. Messages like “look after your own” may curb officers’ duty to intercede when another officer uses excessive force. Had George Floyd’s death not been caught on camera, ex-training officer Chauvin’s actions may have been thought of as acceptable and even imitated by rookie officers.

Ultimately, officers need to take pride in their profession. They must honor their duty to intercede, hold themselves to a higher ethical standard, and be unafraid to have empathy and listen to their morals.

Whether or not policing is effective relies on mutual trust between officers and their community. Right now, the trust is broken.

I’ve taken my new perspective to my advisers in the police department. They told me that my ideas are thought-provoking and will be discussed.

I believe it is possible for an admirable profession to reemerge after reflection and action. I believe it is possible for justice to include social justice.

Will I look back on my time in the Exploring Academy with hope for the future? Only if policing changes. Because it’s not ‘us vs. them’ It’s we.

Jeannette Wang is a student at Los Altos High School and a police explorer at the Mountain View Police Department and can be reached at [email protected]

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now

Follow Mountain View Voice Online on Twitter @mvvoice, Facebook and on Instagram @mvvoice for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Guest opinion: A police explorer's perspective on how to improve police training

by / Contributor

Uploaded: Sun, Sep 20, 2020, 8:35 am

In December 2019, at the age of 15, I graduated as class president of the Peninsula Law Enforcement Exploring Academy. The academy is for young people ages 14 to 21 who are interested in a career in law enforcement. It is recognized as a valuable first step in the profession. In fact, the chief, deputy chief, and my adviser from my city’s department are all graduates of the exploring academy.

Upon completion, graduates proudly receive their department’s explorer uniform and go on ride-alongs, volunteer at community outreach events, and assist with overnight security for city events.

For nine consecutive Sundays, I crawled out of bed at 5 a.m. and didn’t return home until 13 hours later.

In the academy, 0730 means physical training. By 0830, we are sweaty and exhausted. We struggle into the academy mandated T-shirts and attempt to look presentable. By 0835, we’re lined up in our squads, shirts tucked in, belts fastened, and at ‘attention.’ We march into the classroom and stand before our chairs. We recite the three rules of academy: Never quit. Be responsible. Look after your own.

We settle in for a series of two- to four-hour lectures on law enforcement topics. These topics include traffic, juvenile, and criminal law; patrol procedures; narcotics; firearms; crime scene investigation; and communications. Occasionally, the monotony of taking notes is broken by additional physical training as punishment for sleeping or swearing. 1200 is lunchtime. By 1230, we’re back in the classroom for more lectures, or if we’re lucky, practical training.

Throughout the 100-hour academy, we lit flares and used batons. We felt the kickback of a firearm and were sent, by ourselves, into the woods at night for search-and-rescue practice.

One day, our training officer pulled out his finger guns and yelled “Bang!” He explained, “You always have to be ready. When there’s a gun out, somebody’s getting shot. Is it going to be you or them?”

Never quit. Be responsible. Look after your own.

When finger guns are exchanged for real guns, the mindset of “looking after you own” can be deadly. The officers who killed Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks chose “them.” The officer who killed Jacob Blake chose “them.” Americans are rightfully furious. The thin blue line, instead of representing a separation between crime and society, is beginning to represent the line between officers and their community.

In America, policing is seen as a threat to personal safety for many people of color. It begs the questions: How can we make policing an admirable profession again? How do we teach future officers to be better? How can we raise the standards of policing to ensure justice includes social justice?

My experience suggests three answers to these critical questions.

First, police departments must work toward reaching a critical mass of Black and minority officers to reduce fatal encounters with Black people. To combat difficulty hiring minorities, departments can expand community outreach programs, like the explorer program, and offer subsidized higher education as an incentive to join the force. College-educated officers are shown to be 41% less likely to fire their weapon.

Second, basic academy training must emphasize whom officers are protecting: the community. Instead of elective community policing seminars in some departments, basic training should be based on community policing philosophy to create a new policing culture.

The immersive environment provided by technologies like virtual reality may be effective in educating officers on racism and others’ experiences.

Third, officers must model a commitment to keeping the community safe – not just chasing after criminals. Impressionable training practices like the finger gun demonstration instill an ‘us vs. them’ mentality within future officers. Messages like “look after your own” may curb officers’ duty to intercede when another officer uses excessive force. Had George Floyd’s death not been caught on camera, ex-training officer Chauvin’s actions may have been thought of as acceptable and even imitated by rookie officers.

Ultimately, officers need to take pride in their profession. They must honor their duty to intercede, hold themselves to a higher ethical standard, and be unafraid to have empathy and listen to their morals.

Whether or not policing is effective relies on mutual trust between officers and their community. Right now, the trust is broken.

I’ve taken my new perspective to my advisers in the police department. They told me that my ideas are thought-provoking and will be discussed.

I believe it is possible for an admirable profession to reemerge after reflection and action. I believe it is possible for justice to include social justice.

Will I look back on my time in the Exploring Academy with hope for the future? Only if policing changes. Because it’s not ‘us vs. them’ It’s we.

Jeannette Wang is a student at Los Altos High School and a police explorer at the Mountain View Police Department and can be reached at [email protected]

Comments

Gary
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Sep 20, 2020 at 11:00 am
Gary, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Sep 20, 2020 at 11:00 am
6 people like this

Nice essay. Impressive teenager. The essay doesn't fully explain how the author's experience in the 100-hour program informed her opinion of what's needed in police recruiting and training. But she offers more ideas for improving policing than candidates for city council.


a community member
Registered user
North Bayshore
on Sep 20, 2020 at 11:33 am
a community member, North Bayshore
Registered user
on Sep 20, 2020 at 11:33 am
6 people like this

Jeannette Wang, your article carries both the weight of experience and eloquence in its words. It will have a profound reach. Please keep changing society through the power of your words. Thank you for writing this.


drslb
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Sep 21, 2020 at 2:15 pm
drslb, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Sep 21, 2020 at 2:15 pm
4 people like this

Thanks for this intelligent and well written article that addresses core issues of police over use of force and gives good ideas about addressing it in our community. I hope you continue to peruse your interest in a law enforcement career.

Law enforcement is a challenging job. I worked in prison system for a while as primary care physician and came to understand how difficult the job is. But that doesn’t excuse abuse of power, which I did see from the deputies in the prison system towards inmates. We the People insist on a higher standard of policing than is the current norm.


Hmmm
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2020 at 9:01 am
Hmmm, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 22, 2020 at 9:01 am
5 people like this

As is common for some of our local kids these days, the author seems to be parroting talking points from the BLM playbook. The problem is that the facts don’t support the suggestions:

1. “ police departments must work toward reaching a critical mass of Black and minority officers to reduce fatal encounters with Black people.”
Statistics show that more blacks are killed by black officers than white officers so preferentially hiring POC would theoretically do nothing to reduce black deaths.

“ To combat difficulty hiring minorities, departments can expand community outreach programs, like the explorer program, and offer subsidized higher education as an incentive to join the force.”
Wouldn’t it be racist to preferentially subsidize education for POC without offering the same programs to whites?

“The officers who killed Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks chose “them.””
The officers were defending themselves in both cases. Is she suggesting they should have chosen to die rather than defend themselves?

I’m unclear on the relevancy of the explorer training (starting at the ungodly hour of 0730, workout for one hour, class work etc) as experience that would qualify her for suggested changes. Until she’s faced a real gun pointed at her head she can’t really opine on how an officer should respond in those circumstances.


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 22, 2020 at 10:39 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 22, 2020 at 10:39 am
3 people like this

@Hmmm, that's why I'm no longer willing to even be 'a voter registered Republican'! I absolutely heard too much of that from Republican officials / for a socially progressive guy to take.
- Affirmative action, even as practiced in democracies such as India, under their Constitution, allow REPARATIONS as a form of damage control, for the horrible practices of the past. That includes past Police Force actions. Across the county, for example the Zoot Suit police abetted riots in WWII Los Angeles.
- So bring on the affirmative policies as this young, involved police services trainee suggests. This is a Public Policy that a Majority of the MV City Council could direct/vote for the City Police Department to implement. (though I guess it would be legally challenging to word)


Hmmm
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2020 at 11:26 am
Hmmm, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 22, 2020 at 11:26 am
4 people like this

So whites today should be discriminated against because some white guys did some bad things 70 years ago? Ridiculous. How is that different than condemning all blacks for the disproportionate amount of crime that blacks commit? If you want a color blind society it goes both ways. All people should be judged on the quality of their character and the competency they exhibit. Lowering the bar for POC teaches them that they’re less than and incapable of fairly competing which ultimately leads to keeping them down rather than lifting them up.


Old Steve
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Sep 22, 2020 at 1:32 pm
Old Steve, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Sep 22, 2020 at 1:32 pm
2 people like this

@Hmmm,

Congratulations! You have two old Steve(s) used to arguing in public to actually agree. Equal Opportunity is not equal if it is "separate but equal". There are many reasons I do not support reparations, but the fact that they would be unfair to white folks is not one of them. Last year marked the 400th year since slavery came to America. The Dredd Scott decision set us all back almost 100 years. Brown v Board of Education was almost 70 years ago. We have made progress, but we are NOT yet a colorblind society. Oscar Grant was prone on a BART platform, Philando Castille was a passenger in a car with his child. George Floyd may have passed a bad Twenty. None of them should be DEAD. Crime and Poverty are intertwined but not perhaps in the ways you expect. Trying to be tough on Crime has not solved poverty. Could we try working on Poverty to see if we can improve Crime around our country??


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 22, 2020 at 1:57 pm
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 22, 2020 at 1:57 pm
1 person likes this

Old Steve - spoken like a true 'fix it' engineer. Hmmm I know my eyesight is poor, but your cultural eyesight does not seem much better (IMO). It is not "some white guy" "70 years ago". It unfortunately continues to be many white guys (and some go along white women and others) to this very year.
Wake up. "Ultimately" is part of the fallacy of your thinking, and that of the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education II. "With all deliberate speed" left kids in Western Virgina going to color-line segregated schools into the early 1970s. Those were not schools with equal resources. QED


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.