Police Power and Training-Black Lives Matter Movement 2020
By Kathryn Davis
The recent incidents of police brutality in the Summer of 2020 led to protests across the United States and around the world. These protests started after a viral video of a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on a man, George Floyd’s, neck for nearly 9 minutes, causing him to pass away.
Citizens across the United States and around the world took to the streets to march against police brutality and racism that affects the lives of black people, especially black men, every day. Since May 2020 there have been 15-26 million people marching across the United States that have been part of the Black Lives Matter Movement. There have been over 4,700 protests or an average of 140 protests per day, across the United States.
Alexis Diaz is a criminology major at Arcadia University who joined protests in downtown Philadelphia, Pa., this summer.
“I went in June to one of the first protests in Philly. Cops had batons in their hands ready to use on us. They wouldn’t look us in our faces when we talked to them and pleaded with them. They used people’s own bikes as ways to push and throw protests further away.”
Diaz said the protests were peaceful until the police took action. “They were just highly on edge and waiting for any little thing to set them off,” she said.
Diaz saw a man riding on his bike handing out pizza to the protesters. Police chased the man and then tackled him off his bike. Diaz further explained that the police were using tear gas against the protesters. “They would set off fake explosion sounds to panic everyone and cause a lot of chaos,” she said.
There was also another protest in September where officers followed a crowd of 60 people onto the highway with their shields and batons ready. “They followed us throughout the whole time; however, nothing got violent,” Diaz said. “There was no room for empathy, understanding, or communication between the protesters and police.”
While Diaz said she was not profiled, she still felt as if she was not treated properly. “Being a white passing Latinx pretty much has granted me the privilege in these situations to not be racially profiled,” Diaz said. She feels this is why white activists and white-passing activists are so important to these racial movements.
“I recall an officer being stopped by another officer when they were excessively tackling and wrestling with a protester, but they were not removed from the protest,” Diaz continued, saying that police officers are not held accountable for their actions. “Police using excessive force should be fired immediately,” Diaz stated. “It is not a job for everyone. People shouldn’t be scared for their livelihood when police are called. I think we can all agree that isn’t right. Police who commit murder as in excessive force, should be fired and charged for murder,” Diaz said.
Despite Diaz’s call for police accountability, the fact is that they are very rarely disciplined or ejected from the police force. This is due to qualified immunity. According to Lawfare Blog, “Qualified immunity is a judicially created doctrine that shields government officials from being held personally liable for constitutional violations—like the right to be free from excessive police force—for money damages under federal law so long as the officials did not violate ‘clearly established’ law.”
“Police abuse their power,” Diaz said. “They are not given adequate training whatsoever to remove themselves from their internal biases, thoughts or feelings and deal with individuals of different demographics of different mentalities, etc., while also being able to maintain their composure. The entire system needs to be reformed,” she stated.
The duration of the training in the Police Academy varies for the different agencies. “It usually takes about 13-19 weeks on average but can last up to six months. Training in the academy consists of branches of law enforcement such as a police officer, FBI Agent, or National Security Agent. Training also includes private law enforcement such as Insurance investigation or Private Security Crime Analyst, as well as social services work such as probation officer, Human Relations Commission, Pre-Trial Services, Victim Representative, or Corrections Officer. Training hours depends on the branch of law enforcement you want to work for. Typically, to be a police officer, you need to have 672 hours of basic training.”
“I feel so lucky and empowered to be living during this revolution and time of protests,” Diaz said. “America is a broken system whose hierarchies of power and privilege have been used to oppress groups of people. This is all America knows and the facts that we are even having these types of conversations is proof enough that these protests are working.”
According to a self-administered Instagram poll asking if the events of Summer 2020 helped start a conversation, 87% of followers said yes. The age range was 19-25, and both men and women responded. The protests appear to be sparking conversation within the household, friendships and relationships.
Diaz felt that the protests are starting to show change. She stated that these protests are a form of consciousness-raising. “They are waking people up and calling people out who have been comfortable for too long, benefiting from the same system oppressing black brothers and sisters,” Diaz said on the issue. Diaz stated that the most important thing she thought the protests did were getting people to start thinking and conversing about the lives other people had to live in America mainly in regards to racial injustice.
Some changes have happened because of the protests. Washington, DC and other states including California, Nevada and Texas have all banned chokeholds as well as enacted police reforms. A new database has been set up to collect video footage that documents police violence. Another significant impact was cities and countries taking down confederate and imperialist statues around the world. Another change in the music industry was the Grammy’s announcing that they would no longer use the word “urban” to describe music of Black origin.
“As a community, we need to seriously invest in consciousness-raising, as in truly and honestly educating people on racial injustice in America, various forms of oppression, unconscious racial bias, etc. We need to educate ourselves first and foremost, figure out where our own privilege comes from and how we can all use our own specific place in society to uplift and support others,” Diaz said.
She furthermore went to say that as a community we all need to prioritize and take seriously who we need to elect in positions of power as well. “In order to move in the right direction, we need leaders who look like us,” Diaz said.