Police Rules Meaningless Without Training and Consequences

Carlos Miller shows why even when police departments get it right on policy, those policies are meaningless in the real world if the officers don’t get adequate training — and if there aren’t consequences for violating that policy, especially when they have an obvious incentive to ignore it.

On the day after Washington D.C. police implemented a new general order stating they must respect the rights of citizens who record them in public, an undercover cop snatched a cell phone from a man who was recording an investigation in public.

When they finally returned the phone back to Earl Staley later that day, he said his memory card was missing.

Now the ACLU, which assisted in drafting the policy, says that perhaps the officer did not know of the guidelines.

That’s still no excuse.

No, it isn’t. It isn’t enough to just put out a policy statement. Every officer in the department must be trained on compliance with the new rule, and they must know that there will be consequences if they violate it. There is a very clear incentive for an officer to ignore this rule to protect themselves, so the rule has to have some teeth or it’s going to be ignored when it is needed most.

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  • Matrim

    This has been asked hundreds of times, so it’s nothing new, but again I’ll ask it: why is it that ignorance of the law seems to work as an excuse for the people we entrust to uphold it, yet not for anyone else?

    Seriously, police should be put on probably ion just for using the “I didn’t know that was the law” excuse (in addition to anything they deserve for violating the law), because if that is true then they obviously aren’t doing their job competently. When I was in the military if I had pled ignorance to some rule related to my job, at the least I would have had written disciplinary action, and if it resulted in a serious incident I could easily have been severely punished.

  • Matrim

    I don’t know how my autocorrect turned “probation” into “probably ion,” but you know what I meant.

  • fastlane

    Matrim: Hypocrisy and authoritarianism. That’s the why. How to change it is a much harder question to answer.

  • Crudely Wrott

    The police, indeed, any authoritarian construct can, in fact learn. It just takes a lot of time and the breaking of a shitload of 2x4s over their heads to get them to internalize the, ah, basics. Not to mention exhausting amounts of patience, dedication and gritty determination.

    Civilization. I doesn’t just happen. It has to be obtained the old fashioned way: you have to demand it.

    Hat tip to John Houseman.

  • Matrim

    @ #3 fastlane> I was mostly being rhetorical. How to do it is easy, if we could actually get the people capable of doing it to move on the issue…