A new Washington Post investigation dives back into the world of for-profit “police training,” and yeesh, it’s not exactly hard to see why some of our nation’s police forces look and sound like taxpayer-funded domestic terror rings. It makes for a depressing read, but perhaps the most alarming takeaway is that, since there’s little pressure for reviewing or accrediting training courses, the “training” offered advocates for increased violence, features instructors who offer “training” based on interactions with hostile enemy combatants in Afghanistan and, of course, training offered by pro-sedition domestic terrorist groups. Because sure, why not? What police department in America wouldn’t jump at the chance to send their officers to one of those.
“This November,” the Post reminds us, “a hacked membership list for the Oath Keepers, a far-right, anti-government group that participated in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, showed that 65 members had worked as law enforcement trainers.”
That news became even more intriguing after the Oath Keepers were charged with seditious conspiracy for their attempts to nullify an American election—an attempt that included violent attacks that injured over a hundred police officers and resulted in multiple deaths. Does that come up in training, do you think? Do Oath Keepers punctuate their advice to officers in training with explanations of how they, specifically, were able to attack and injure law enforcement officers using weapons ranging from reinforced flagpoles to police barricades?
Because you’d imagine that the militia’s members would have a hard time not bragging about that, right?
We kid, of course. Police department ranks have been filled out by violence-seeking, white nationalism-backing militia members for decades. If you want another example of how law enforcement treats members of its ranks that attack other members, here’s a new story about a former Arizona prisons director who was in a drunken seven-hour gun-waving standoff, which involved a SWAT team, a police robot, a neighborhood evacuation, and many weapons—some without serial numbers. The dude didn’t spend a single minute in jail.
Back to the point at hand, though: The Post makes special note of Richard Mack, the omnipresent supposed “constitutional sheriff” who promotes the conspiracy theory that sheriffs have the ability to override federal laws ranging from gun safety measures to pandemic mask requirements and everything between. His training courses have been certified by Texas and Montana, and you don’t need to go any farther than a few YouTube searches to see what Richard Mack considers “true” policing to look like. The presence of the far-right in police “training” is omnipresent, as are conspiracy theories about pro-reform movements and the other accouterments of far-right paranoia.
But the Post‘s most intriguing points are the (admittedly self-serving) explanations from the head of the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, pause, gasp for breath, who points out that only a tiny fraction of these training courses have been certified. The rest of the market is a free-for-all with little to no oversight and nobody in the states who has enough expertise to know or care whether the “training” courses officers are attending are competently presented or are, to use the Post‘s actual examples, pro-violence, pro-racism horror shows advocating militaristic police approaches meant to escalate the use of physical force—”training” that assuredly will result in more lawsuit expenses for cities and counties than any supposed decrease in crime would offset.
When you have Oath Keepers switching between “training” police officers and caching weapons around D.C. in preparation for murdering them, it is fairly damn evident that you have a police “training” problem. So perhaps the head of the International Association of Etc is exactly right: If you want better-trained law enforcement departments that know how to deescalate violence and genuinely prevent crime, maybe you should f’ing provide training that does that.
As opposed to paying Richard Mack and the Seditionettes to talk about how, actually, laws are whatever you want them to be, and “civil rights” means whatever you can get away with.
It’s a good read but a terrible listen. The Post scatters audio of some of the training conferences throughout its story, and, yeah, it’s pretty easy to see how an auditorium of law enforcement officers being screamed at by Tomi Lahren could come out of the day more messed up than they were when they went in. What if we trained our police forces with actual training and not via a grab-bag of white nationalist militia crackpots looking to earn a few bucks to fund their next attempt at sedition? That could work, right?
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.