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by Peter Moskos

May 20, 2008

4 Philadelphia Cops Fired for Beating

The ax has started to fall in response to the Philly police beatings. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that four officers have been fired, others have been demoted and/or disciplined.

Maybe this beating was an aberration, but given the mass involvement, it's hard to imagine that this wasn't part of the informal Philly police culture. Two of the officers were just months out of the police academy. That's not a good sign. Nor does it reflect well on their academy. I guess Philly is still hiring old-school police.

As I wrote before, there's no excuse for police acting like they did. They should be fired. And some criminally charged. And yet, part of the cop in me also can't help but feel sorry for the officers.

I wish the Philly brass had done more to confront and change a culture of police brutality before this happened, rather than ruin the lives of a half a dozen men simply because this time their bad deeds were caught on tape. Do you really think that Commissioner Ramsey was shocked, shocked!?

In 1958, Everett Hughes coined the concept of "reality shock." The bigger the gap between what you're supposed to do and what you have to do, the more likely you are to dismiss all of what you're supposed to do. Academy trainees are sequestered away for the realities of policing in an idealistic bubble of what some people think police should be. The goal of the police academy should be to minimize "reality shock" by closing the distance between police training and police reality.

There's a great Ali G Show episode that shows this. He spends a day at, of all places, the Philadelphia Police Academy. I show it in my classes because it illustrates some of the absurdity of police training. I also show it because it's funny. At one point Ali G gets reprimanded for swearing at a man with a [fake] gun. You know what, when lives are at stake, an officer really shouldn't be thinking about his mouth. There's nothing wrong with swearing at a man with a gun.

In the Netherlands, police training last two years. That's probably too long. But what I like about the Dutch system is that police officers spend those two years alternating between school and the street. They spend half the time in each, in three-month intervals. That way school relates to the street and on the street you can apply what you learn in school.


Dave Hummels said...

Great post. The idea of phasing recruits into field work is a great idea. It's kind of like rotations for medical students. Can it be that the Netherlands actually treats policing like a profession and its academies like profssional schools instead of bootcamps. I think we need some more of that in the states, Officer Pete.

PCM said...

Thanks, Dave.
I think there are two parts that need to be addressed. But they're really kind of the same thing:
1) link the police academy and field work.
2) change the academy so that it relates more to policing in the real world.
The nice part is that if you did #1, it would lead to #2.

Anonymous said...

those cops should be tortured and then executed.